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Department of Social Services

September 5, 2018 - 1:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Department of Social Services, news, batavia.

It's time to replace the 20-year-old roof at 5130 E. Main St., where the county keeps offices for Department of Social Services and Mental Health, but before the building owners invest that kind of money, they would like to know that their current tenants will remain in place through 2027.

R&J Enterprises of Batavia LLC is asking for a lease extension.

County legislators wanted to get assurances before making that kind of commitment, that there are no known code violations at the location and no other known problems, such as potential mold.

There have been some leaks in the aging roof.

Chad LaCivita, from R&J, and Tony Mancuso, Mancuso Commercial Realty, met Tuesday with the Human Services Committee.

LaCivita said because leaks have always been repaired quickly, there's no evidence mold has developed.

David Rumsey, director of Social Services, said R&J have been good landlords.

"Every time have a problem they’re right on it," Rumsey said. "It is an old building and old buildings have problems and the problems get fixed."

The building was originally constructed for Twin Fair Department Store, later becoming Ames, and the county moved some of its operations to the location after Ames closed in 2001.

A new roof isn't the only upgrade R&J is considering.

"We're looking at replacing HVAC units over next two years and we're also going to make some cosmetic changes to make the offices more enjoyable," LaCivita said.

Committee Chairman Andrew Young said he would support a lease extension but he wasn't comfortable doing it under the pretense of an agreement to put on a new roof and new HVAC. To him, he said, that's the responsibility of the landlord anyway.

"I'm going to support it for different reasons," Young said. "From what I understand, you guys are great landlords and we need that building."

September 6, 2017 - 8:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in DSS, Department of Social Services, news, foster care.

An ongoing expense struggle for the county's Department of Social Services said Commissioner Eileen Kirkpatrick is the cost of supporting children in foster care, and especially those who are institutionalized because of serious behavioral problems.

There are about 15 kids in institutional care, which costs the county about $225,000 per year per child.

These are children whose parents could either no longer handle them, or the parents are out of the picture and the children caused problems in foster care settings.

"Some kids' behavior is so extreme not only are they not safe, their families aren't safe and their foster parents aren't safe," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm talking about kids who assault staff, who actually beat up their caretakers."

Kirkpatrick talked about one child who has been in DSS care since she was 12. She frequently ran away from her foster homes and later her institutional care homes.

"I'm responsible for her until she's 21," Kirkpatrick said. "That young lady, she got out of OCSF at 18 and a month beforehand, we moved her into a supervised independent living program. I'm surprised. She's been there since June and actually has stayed there."

That $45,000 annual fee is better than the $225,000 it cost to keep her institutionalized.

There are currently 51 children in foster care, Kirkpatrick said, and the vast majority of them are typical children, going to school and staying out of serious trouble.

The county needs to find more local foster parents, though. Kirkpatrick anticipates an increase in need with school starting when schools are more likely to identify children with problems at home. Today's problems that lead to foster care often involve parental drug addiction. Opioid addiction takes a toll on the children, too.

It's better for the county to place children with the county's own foster parents than through one of the volunteer agencies, she said. That's because when the child goes to an agency, the county often ends up handling case management for the child; making sure they get registered for school, go to school and make any doctor's appointments, for example. So the county doesn't escape that expense, even though it's paying a higher fee for outside placement.

This was Kirkpatrick's last department review with County Legislators before retiring. Her presentation, she said, was meant to inform legislators of one of the significant cost issues facing DSS as the county heads into another round of budget preparation.

September 2, 2014 - 7:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Department of Social Services.

County case workers are dealing with more and more children who are neglected by their parents, Department of Social Services Director Eileen Kirkpatrick said today during the Public Service Committee meeting.

"You see it in the news -- more child runaways, more children arrested for petty crimes," Kirkpatrick said. "We've seen an increase in people who don't care if they have their kids or not. We have more cases were we find a kid at home alone with mom at some crack house in Rochester."

Many of these children wind up in foster care, but this year Genesee County is on pace for a record number of adoptions.

There have been 13 this year already.

"That's really a big number for us," Kirkpatrick said. "Some years, we don't have any, but there's more cases of termination of parental rights."

At least, Kirkpatrick told the legislators, is there's no shortage of willing foster parents.

There have been 19 new homes certified this year.

"That's a big increase for us," she said.

The agency is working to develop its own group of foster care providers because it's less expensive than going through organizations such as Hillside, which charges the county as much as $100 more per day, Kirkpatrick said, as part of an "administrative rate."

"It's the same people (being foster parents), same members of our community, who step forward and take in foster children, but it's cheaper," Kirkpatrick said.

Related to children and county expense, Kirkpatrick expects that by 2016, that state is going to increase the age of accountability to 18. That means teenagers currently treated as adults in the criminal justice system (ages 16 and 17) will go through Family Court rather than municipal courts.

These teens, who if convicted might spend time in county jail, will instead be diverted to the juvenile detention system, increasing the county cost per-child, per-day from about $70 to more than $1,000.

"We're going to treat those children differently, but it's going to come at a cost," Kirkpatrick said.

Part of Kirkpatrick's department review with the Legislature included this information:

  • There's going to be a cut in funding for county-subsidized child care. Working, low-income parents are eligible for assistance through the program (it's not a free program), but reserve funds that had rolled over from previous years are now spent (about $216,000), and the allocation from the state is not expected to increase.
  • It appears more people are finding work. Case loads indicate there are fewer people needing assistance. "We weathered the storm of extended unemployment running out and those people are not flocking through the doors," Kirkpatrick said.
  • By 2015, reforms for Medicaid mean that the county's share of expenses will be capped at about $9.6 million, ending the cycle of ever-increasing costs. The cap remains in place whether there is a 20-percent increase of Medicaid recipients or a 20-percent decrease.
October 4, 2010 - 9:08pm

dss_kirkpatrick.jpg

One thing you need to know about social services and fraud is that just because a person isn't living up to your standards doesn't mean that person is getting public assistance illegally.

The lady could be on her sixth boyfriend in 10 months. She could be pregnant with her seventh son. The man down the road could be a drunk or a pack rat. Both husband and wife could sit on the front porch all day smoking Senecas, or hit the corner deli every day to buy scratchers.

None of that constitutes evidence of fraud, according to Genesee County Social Services Commissioner Eileen Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick spoke with the Human Services Committee today after a legislator raised questions about how DSS handles fraud cases.

While it's the responsibility of all DSS staff members to be on the look out for evidence of fraud, the department employs two full-time fraud investigators (the second position was created in 2006).

And those two investigators are kept busy.

Every day, DSS accepts 16 new applications for public assistance, and every one of them is a potential fraud case.

Of course, of the thousands of cases DSS handles every year, only a relatively few ever reach the stage of an actual fraud investigation.

In 2008, the two investigators formally investigated 342 cases, and there were 582 investigations in 2009.

"When you think about the number of cases we handle in our department, when you think about the thousands of cases, the number of complaints we investigate are really minuscule compared to what we are really doing," Kirkpatrick said.

A fraud investigation can either begin with a complaint, or during the initial application process, Kirpatrick said.

During the interview process, DSS workers look for inconsistencies, using a standardized set of "red flags": Has the applicant recently moved into the county; no documentation; primary tenant with no utility bills; landlord does not verify household composition; or an invalid social security number, for example.

Tips might come from law enforcement, other social services departments, friends, neighbors or even current welfare recipients.

"Clients are famous for ratting on other clients," Kirkpatrick said. "It's usually in defense of their own status. 'If you think what I'm doing is bad, how about ...'" motioning as if pointing to another person.

The screening process generally catches people coming into the county just looking for an easy way to get on public assistance, she said.

"People don't find it that easy to just come in and get on assistance in our department," Kirkpatrick said. "If they need help, we're going to help them, but they're going to have to do what they need to do to complete the program."

Which usually means looking for work, getting job-placement assistance, applying for job training and working to get off of public aid.

Contrary to what some may think or wish, evidence of drug abuse doesn't disqualify a person for public assistance, but all applicants are screened for substance abuse. If abuse is suspected, the person is referred to GCASA.

From time to time, a person makes it through the screening process when they shouldn't -- or gets on public assistance and then later starts earning money not originally reported.

For example, a person might start a new business and not report the income.

It's amazing, Kirkpatrick said, what a good Google search might find about a person's attempts to earn disqualifying income. Investigators also check Facebook and Twitter.

And even comments left on The Batavian -- and there have been examples, Kirkpatrick told legislators, of DSS recipients leaving comments on The Batavian that have led to investigations.

One gentleman on assistance set up a web page for his home business, complete with numerous pictures of his work, and was earning a good living making an undisclosed item. When his entreprenuerism was discovered, DSS shut off his assistance.

When a suspected case of fraud is found, assistance is terminated, but recipients have a right to appeal. During the appeal process, payments continue.

While all tips are welcome -- Kirkpatrick reiterated near the end of the meeting -- that just because a woman's millionaire boyfriend moves in, doesn't mean she is no longer eligible for medicaid. That's not fraud, she said. She could even continue to get food stamps if the boyfriend swore he bought and cooked his own food.

It's also not fraud to fail to comply with DSS rules. Rules violations could jeopardize benefits, but is not considered fraud.

Fraud is an intentional attempt to obtain benefits to which the recipient is not entitled, Kirkpatrick said.

September 11, 2009 - 11:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, elba, Department of Social Services.

A woman accused of getting more than $21,000 in food stamps she shouldn't have received has been charged with seven counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

Kelly Spenton, 36, allegedly lived with an employed person from March 2005 to March 2008 while she was collecting food stamps from the Department of Social Services.

Spenton, formerly of Elba, allegedly did not report this living arrangement to DSS.

The charges are felonies.

Batavia Town Justice Thomas Williams set bail in this case at $10,000, but Spenton is already in jail on a previous conviction.

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