12/06/09 — Holidays increase needs at Social Services

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Holidays increase needs at Social Services

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 6, 2009 1:50 AM

Christmas is a busy time for the Wayne County Department of Social Services -- but the needs of the people the agency serve continue year-round, says Director Debbie Jones.

The agency has been fortunate this year, she said, with regular contributors who have "traditionally been very generous."

So far, donations have remained steady, with many who traditionally give every year coming through as usual.

Most of the beneficiaries are in foster or group homes.

"We do have a special fund that we use to purchase for Christmas for children in foster care," she said. "We take that money and do what we can with it for foster children."

With an estimated 50 children in foster care in Wayne County -- from newborns to age 18 -- the need is to supplement what their host families are able to do, Ms. Jones said.

"They go to school and hear what other kids want for Christmas. We try really hard to make sure they have as normal a life as possible. ... Our foster children, we buy them things, we're looking for necessities. They might get an MP3 player, but they're certainly not going to get a Wii."

As any parent knows, the cost of raising a child increases incrementally as they grow up. The same holds true for families participating in the foster care program.

"The foster children have needs all year long (and) the money comes from the state and federal government, focusing on providing a payment for food and a place for them to live," Ms. Jones said. "But if you have one that's chosen to be on the cheerleading squad or basketball team, we have to find ways to pay for that. Or ask if (donors) mind if we use that money later on during the year."

The same holds true for the adult wards served by Social Services. These represent those who have been adjudicated, or deemed incompetent or incapable of making their own decisions.

"What happens for those 30 people (is) I'm the legal guardian and my folks make decisions for them," he said. "We have to make special efforts to acquire funding for those people."

And so, when holiday season rolls around and donations start to pour in, typically earmarked for the younger demographic, Ms. Jones said she tries to broaden the scope.

"One of the things I say if people call me and say they want to help, is, 'We appreciate it but do you mind if we use some of this to help our adult wards so that they can get a new pair of pajamas?' The things that they ask for are so small -- a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD or some talcum powder -- that there's simply not the money to take care of it.

"We also have adults who are just not able to meet their own needs."

Shopping for adults and foster children is usually done by social services staff, Ms. Jones said, although foster families may also assist with some of the children's gifts.

To donate to the cause, checks can be made payable to Dept. of Social Services Foster Fund and dropped off at the agency office of mailed to Vicky Hill, Dept. of Social Services, 301 N. Herman Street, Box HH, Goldsboro, NC 27530.