SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Department of Social Services (DSS) received a county commendation for being one of only three such departments to “meet or exceed all four Place Matters goals for child welfare.”
The commendation especially praised the DSS for having the lowest percentage of foster children placed in group care in the entire state.
DSS Director Pete Buesgens and other representatives were on hand at the County Commissioners meeting Tuesday to receive the commendation.
“As great as this is, we can never let yesterday get in the way of what we need to do tomorrow,” he said, telling the commissioners that being honored for past accomplishments wouldn’t mean anything if the DSS didn’t maintain such a high standard in the future, something he guaranteed would continue.
The Place Matters model has four categories – adoption, family care, group care and foster care. Buesgens and his team presented Worcester County’s impressive statistics to the commissioners.
“We had 11 adoptions and we had 79 percent of children in family care. Last year we were the highest in the state,” Buesgens said.
Buesgens then proudly informed the assembly that the DSS had no children placed in dormitory-style group care, which made Worcester County the leading department in that area throughout Maryland.
“Zero is about as low as you can get,” Buesgens said in reference to the percentage in group care.
The final Place Matters’ goal had to do with the reduction of children in foster care.
“Our goal was to reduce foster care by 5 percent,” stated Buesgens. “We brought it down by 7 percent.”
He added that department goals were always second to the safety of the kids and that a big contributor to the success of DSS were unique “Family Involvement Meetings.”
“If there’s an issue with a child in a home, we’ll call everyone in the community important to that child,” he said. “We’ll try to come to a consensus to what will help the child…it’s the biggest reason we’ve been able to reduce foster care.”
Commission President Bud Church, speaking on behalf of the commission, expressed gratitude to the DSS and pride that the level of success in Worcester County was in the top tier statewide.
“Not only does your achievement reflect on you, it also reflects on the county and you’ve honored them both,” Church said.