Acting Chief Counsel Peter Sabonis received a thank-you letter from a Baltimore County Department of Social Services supervisor (who asked that his name not be used) about Sabonis’ February 13 Baltimore Sun op-ed that warned about the dearth of DSS workers available to distribute federal stimulus funds to low-income people.
“Thank you very much for your effort to inform the citizens of Maryland of the crisis which is being faced by the staff of Department of Human Resources,” the supervisor wrote. “Nearly thirty years ago, fresh out of social work school armed with my MSW I started my efforts to help people. I still recall my first job with social services in child welfare. Ironically, staffing was also an issue at that time; I remember disagreeing with the management of my office who suggested that if we showed the administration at DHR central how much work we were doing, we would surely get more staff. I stated if we showed them we could do the work why would we get more staff!
“Now as you point out, we in Baltimore County are struggling to address the increasing flood of requests for assistance with fewer and fewer staff. Offices which once had 30 staff have been reduced to a staff of less than ten. For years we have faced a State hiring freeze, resulting in vacant positions which over time are then eliminated to save money. We are told there is a State hiring freeze only to see our staff depleted as they accept other State jobs at DHMH, State Lottery , Retirement System etc. (Never could figure out why a State hiring freeze only seemed to apply to us and no other State agency.) When someone leaves, retires or dies, we must submit a justification why the position should be filled, it takes months to get a response and often we can not fill the vacancy. Clerical positions (the backbone of any office) have been left out of this process, which has resulted in few clerical staff left in any office.
“As you point out we have tried to follow all the cute catch phrases, ‘do more with less’ ‘work smarter not harder.’ We are now facing ‘do everything with nothing’ phase. I often try to be supportive of my staff by pointing out even if the Ravens had the best designed playbook, but took the field with 6 players instead of 11, their success would be minimal.
“I still try to help people, but after 30 years in various social work positions, I am beginning to wonder if the public agencies that often are the only hope for those in need will ever be provided the resources required.
“Thanks again for your continued efforts to assist those in need. I only wish I could do more to help you.”