MONTICELLO, NY — At last Thursday’s meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature, John Liddle told the story of a Sullivan County baby who was born with drugs in …
MONTICELLO, NY — At last Thursday’s meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature, John Liddle told the story of a Sullivan County baby who was born with drugs in their system. The mother was unable to care for the child and willingly gave up her baby. “We had four foster care families ready to go to take this baby in,” the family services commissioner said. “That was not something Sullivan County child services could do in the past.” They could find the best choice for the family, and “it’s really nice to see the work that’s getting done there.”
During the pandemic, the county’s system of care has kept going with some people in-office and telework ensuring that the work won’t stop if someone gets sick. And the family contacts, the constant phone calls, the endless paperwork grind—all of it makes sure children in need have somewhere safe to go.
It’s working. The office has reduced by half the number of kids in residential treatment (which also saves taxpayer dollars) and tripled the number of children in “kinship care” (care of children by relatives or close family friends, and usually the best choice)—that’s a jump from three families to 11, Liddle reported. And there is nearly a 50-percent increase in available foster homes in the county.
“I’m really pleased with our foster care team,” he said, and with “the hard work that they do to improve the system of care in Sullivan County.”
Follow-up on the homeless
The department is also responsible for looking after the county’s homeless. “We’ve been figuring out between hotels and shelters and what’s out there, what options we can generate to be ready for when the eviction moratorium lifts,” Liddle said.
Of course, it’s not just about housing people; it’s about helping them get back on their feet. Liddle said the Department of Family Services will be partnering with workforce development to start people on a path to a better life. “It’s more about the hand-up instead of the hand-out,” he said.
“In 2020, despite the pandemic, we were able to serve 2,100 unique individuals,” reported Melissa Stickle, community services director. A normal year would see 2,500 people served, but last year meant working with half the staff and few in-person visits. “The caseloads, as you can imagine, are still high, but the staff [is] managing and working very hard.”
And in a sign of the times, “We continue to see patients that we normally haven’t seen before,” she said. “It’s very important that we take care of them.”
Read more about the February 11 meeting online at www.riverreporter.com/news.