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Jackson addresses foster care needs

Jackson addresses foster care needs

Jackson County has approved a plan to pay employees for assisting with the “unprecedented rate” of residential foster care services provided for children in the custody of the Jackson County Department of Social Services. 

“This is an attempt to provide some additional pay to those employees who are having to spend nights and weekends with these children and above and beyond their comp time, which is time and a half, that they do receive,” said County Manager Don Adams.

From January through May, Adams estimates that there were about 75 days during which Jackson County staff were providing care for children.

“That’s a significant amount of days when you start talking about a five month period, 75 days, some fell on weekends or during weekdays and so forth,” said Adams.

In order to help compensate staff accordingly, county staff brought a temporary stipend policy to county commissioners for approval that would help pay for those employees who stay with and care for the children.

The stipend payments will be paid out per shift in addition to the accrual of compensatory time up to 240 hours. Those working shifts from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on weekdays will receive $75, and $90 for the 12:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift. All shifts of holidays and weekends will receive a $120 stipend. There will also be prorated stipends available for employees who can work parietal shifts.

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“Jackson County Department of Social Services are experiencing an unprecedented rate of providing residential foster care for children,” said Adams. “They’re not aware there is a consistent issue and problem with finding placements for children who are in DSS custody. At the end of the day, when they are in DSS custody, it is the responsibility of the DSS director and employees to basically provide care to those children until placement can be found.” 

If the issue of providing residential foster care continues with consistency, the county may open the overtime positions to all county employees to help avoid burnout among DSS employees. This would also help in the case of emergencies to have a wider pool of adults available to care for the children.

“There is going to be a need to just open this up. I did have that direct conversation with the DSS director,” said Adams. “We should go ahead and set up an application process and go ahead and go through a process and create a list of county employees who are interested and start off with them being the second employee initially. We need to still keep social workers with these children, but some of these children require two adults.” 

Because of the frequency with which Jackson County DSS is providing residential care for foster children, there was some urgency in getting the stipend policy approved.

“Normally, this is something that you would wait till the beginning of the fiscal year, but they currently have children in custody right now,” said Adams. “I did have a conversation with the director, and he said if you make this effective tomorrow he can start complying with these shifts.” 

The board unanimously approved the temporary payment policy during its June 20 meeting, and it went into effect the following day.  

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