Carroll County Department of Social Services is throwing a private party today to celebrate an anniversary in 2000 -- a 65-year period that has seen the agency grow from a staff of three to about 130.
On July 26, 1935, after Congress passed the Social Security Act to help the poor, the Carroll County Public Welfare Board formed. A director, an investigator and a clerk were hired to help the poorest county residents in the aftermath of the Depression.
Today, its staff members handle thousands of cases, ranging from child abuse and adoptions to job placement.
"This is the kick-off reception, celebrating all the services given to citizens of Carroll County over the years," said M. Octavia Breeden, who retired last month as assistant director for administration.
Since October 1996, she said, the department has been busy helping people who are being moved off of public assistance find jobs -- which has produced a 75 percent decrease in its annual caseload.
"The welfare-to-work program -- it's working," she said. "Oh yes, it's working very well."
Now part of the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the department has several operating units.
In the past fiscal year, department staff investigated more than 400 reports of child abuse and neglect, and collected more than $7 million in child support -- an amount that continues to grow.
The Family Investment Program offers temporary cash assistance. Food stamps have been replaced by Independence Cards.
Thousands of children have been placed by the Adoption Services and the Foster Care units, she said.
"Child Protective Services, that's a very big one, which also is increasing, unfortunately," she said. "There are never enough people to handle the caseload."
The department also has the Adult and Family Service Unit, which performs such tasks as helping the elderly with trips to the grocery store or doctor's office, Breeden said. Its function sometimes intertwines with the Family Preservation Unit, which has money to help keep families intact by finding them food and shelter.
DSS, at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, opened a satellite office in Taneytown and is working on plans for an office in South Carroll, she said.
The private reception today in Westminster will include not only county and city officials, but two past directors: Lowell T. Haines, who served from 1966 to 1988, and Alexander Jones, who served from 1988 to 1997. George Giese took the post in 1997, after 22 years with the Youth Services Bureau.
They chose a 65th-anniversary celebration, Breeden said, "because it just seemed to coincide with the year 2000."