MOREHEAD CITY — The County Department of Social Services is hoping to hire four additional staff members over the next five years to meet the growing demands of the agency.

That is among many plans in the works for DSS to accomplish the goals and objectives included in the agency’s five-year strategic plan.

Kay Huffman, human services evaluator with DSS, reviewed the plan, which spans 2023-27, during the June 13 County Consolidated Human Services board meeting in the health department conference room.

Ms. Huffman said DSS would face additional staffing challenges over the next few years with several longtime employees approaching retirement age.

“Over the next five years, we will be looking at adding new positions and the possibility of eight or nine retirements,” she said.

As for the four new positions needed over the next five years, they are two income maintenance caseworkers, a child protective services social worker and a child support agent.

The strategic plan sets out five goals and multiple objectives to accomplish the following mission:

  • Help people obtain the basic necessities of life.

  • Assist and protect our elderly and disabled adults.

  • Protect children and strengthen families.

  • Promote self-sufficiency through employment.

In order to accomplish the mission, the department’s administration and staff came up with five basic goals. Each goal contains numerous objectives to accomplish each one.

The five goals are:

  • Promote knowledge and positive perception of DSS services and assistance.

  • Maximize state/federal funding and guidance to support local funding and resources.

  • Protect vulnerable populations and strengthen families.

  • Identify opportunities for human services co-location and collaboration.

  • Recruit, develop and retain qualified workforce.

To promote knowledge and positive perception of DSS, the agency proposes to offer annual customer service training for employees and implement opportunities to educate the public about the revenues and economic benefits provided by DSS. There are other objectives under this category as well.

To maximize state and federal funding, the agency wants to achieve consistent spending of subsidized childcare funds to 100%, pursue external grant opportunities and increase arrears collections to maximize child support incentives. There are other objectives as well.

There are numerous objectives to accomplish the goal of protecting vulnerable populations and strengthen families. Among those are develop and implement strategies to improve quality and frequency of child welfare services contacts, conduct an early child support roundup with the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office and increase outreach to under-served populations to assist with meeting basic needs such as food, water and electricity.

As part of identifying opportunities for human services co-location and collaboration, the agency proposes sharing events between DSS economic services and the health department’s Women, Infants and Children department to share programs with clients. They also propose advocating for co-location of DSS and health departments to improve services. The two departments are currently housed in various buildings in Beaufort and Morehead City. There were other objectives as well.

In order to recruit, develop and retain a qualified workforce, the agency outlined several objectives. They include: develop and implement an onboarding and training curriculum; partner with NC Child Welfare Education Collaborative universities for field placement opportunities; implement a stay survey to identify weaknesses to aid in employee retention; create strategies to adapt to a transitional workforce; and explore opportunities to develop incentives to encourage applicants to come to the agency and support retention.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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