DSS Commissioner praises staff, recaps 2011 in annual report

NORWICH – Department of Social Services Commissioner Bette Osborne praised her staff for “taking their jobs to heart” upon delivering the department’s 2011 annual report Monday to the Chenango County Board of Supervisors.

“We are here to help people. And we do that respectfully and as efficiently as possible,” she said.

The job is hardly stress-free. The commissioner said it’s a challenge to hire people to listen to other people’s problems for seven hours a day. Whether it’s a child support battle between ex-spouses, automobiles that have broken down, lost jobs, day care struggles or unpaid electric bills, caseworkers need to be able to empathize every day and not take work-related emotions home with them. Finding individuals with both characteristics is difficult, she said.

Staff also need to weather the stresses that come with keeping abreast of technological changes as state and federal mandates for new software, and often times new hardware, come down the pike. Computerization and staffing remain DSS’ biggest concerns for 2012. When asked by Smyrna Supervisor James Bays to describe the communications between the different state health department services such as Foster Care, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, Osborne described them as being “all in their own silos.”

“Their computers don’t talk to each other. At least we have one system that can work with all their different computers, thanks to our own IT department. ... I’m not seeing them (the state) come together in the foreseeable future,” she said.

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