The Madison Quilters’ Guild hosted a discussion about the services offered by Madison County Social Services at its monthly meeting July 22.

Valerie Ward, director of Madison County Social Services, explained to the group of 20 about the agency and the services they provide. Ward explained the programs that the Madison County Social Services oversees and implements, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to foster care services. Guild president, Elizabeth Jacobsen Snead, organized the program because some of the members expressed an interest in supporting the agency as part of the club’s community service.

Ward began the presentation with some figures about the number of people served by the government agency. Twenty-five employees serve the 13,277 people in Madison County. The agency oversees the 895 SNAP recipients, 2,371 Medicaid clients, nine Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, 13 child care clients and has 152 active services cases. Ward explained the various aid programs, SNAP which provides help to needy families in the form of an electronic debit card for food purchases and TANF which offers financial help to get families back on their feet. The agency also has an affordable child care program designed to help parents go back to school or work to better support their families.

Ward explained that many of the people they help have no support.

“Often, these clients aren’t just financially challenged, they have no support system,” said Ward. “They don’t have a friend, neighbor or relative to take them in, to watch their kids or help them get through a rough patch. We end up being the support system, a safety net.”

According to Ward, 1,488 people in the county live in poverty and over half the population of Madison County is in the Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) demographic. Several local non-profits also provide services to local residents in need including MESA, Skyline CAP and the Madison Free Clinic. Social Services deals with the population with the lowest incomes, but Ward believes many more in the county are struggling. These other organizations are trying to meet the needs of an aging and struggling population.

The Department of Social Services is most known for overseeing child abuse and neglect cases and supervising custody and foster care. Currently, the local agency has 152 active cases. Ward said that during her tenure with the agency the demographics of the active cases have changed.

“It used to be mostly older children,” said Ward. “People would come in wanting to foster a baby and I would explain that most of the kids in the system were 3 and up; having a baby would be highly unusual. Now over one third are infants to age three. The addiction crisis has changed this. More and more we are getting these children straight from the hospital and it has led to a whole new set of challenges. These babies are born addicted and being discharged from the hospital with methadone. We need to equip our system to meet the needs created by the addiction crisis.”

Members of the quilters’ guild mulled around several potential projects to benefit Madison County’s Department of Social Services, including a diaper drive or diaper closet, providing transportation for agency clients and making bags for the children in the agency’s care.

Snead said after the presentation last Monday the group has decided to purchase a large package of diapers in every size and donate them to DSS.

“We may do a diaper drive in the future if we can find storage,” said Snead. “For now we will help cover some of the most basic needs.”

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