IN THE NEWS Greenwich Social Services department has new identity|
IN THE NEWS: Greenwich Social Services department has new identity
By Ken Borsuk
Updated 4:58 pm, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
GREENWICH — With a vote of the Representative Town Meeting Monday night, the town Department of Social Services was no more.
In its place has sprung the renamed Department of Human Services.
The personnel are the same, but the new name is meant to reflect the adapting of the department’s mission.
“We’re becoming more proactive with clients and with the community,” said Alan Barry, head of the department. “We’re going to be using it as a way to change the image of the department.”
The name change was pushed by the department itself and received the backing of the Board of Selectmen in January. Monday night’s RTM vote made it official.
The Board of Social Services will also change its name.
The change required small alterations to verbiage in the town charter, which is why the RTM had to sign off on it.
Alexis Voulgaris, chair of the RTM Health and Human Services Committee, said it was a logical change to make.
“Over the years the core concern of the department has transitioned from a piecework agency that assisted clients obtaining entitlements, benefits and financial assistance to a case management system in which the staff is working in partnership with the clients to support their efforts to be more self-sufficient,” Voulgaris said. “The department has shifted from providing additional social welfare services to one that works directly with clients and community agencies to implement programs that focus on developing and improving client skill sets.”
She added other municipalities have made similar name changes, in part to avoid confusion with the state Department of Social Services.
The Greenwich department has changed names before, transitioning from the Department of Public Welfare to Social Services in 1968. The department’s roots go back to 1820 when the RTM authorized the town to buy a house for the town’s poor residents so they could be provided for in one place.
In 1825, the Board of Relief was created, beginning an evolutionary process through the years that saw the Department of Charities created in 1909. Its name was changed to Department of Public Welfare in 1933.
Some RTM members suggested delaying the name change, so the Board of Social Services could touch up the charter to remove language that spoke to the department’s duties 100 years ago, but no longer does so — references to adoption, “intoxicating liquors,” “children born out of wedlock” and the like.
“Since the Board of Selectmen have opened up the charter at this point, this does allow a committee like the Board of Social Services to be able to undertake a rewrite,” said RTM District 8 member Nick Edwards, who is a 24-year employee of the department. “It’s over 100 years old and doesn’t reflect what’s actually done. This is the time to do it rather than waiting another 50 or 100 years … Now is the time to do it otherwise it will never get done.”
However, Edwards’ motion to delay did not get a vote because RTM Moderator Tom Byrne said it would not be in legal order.
“We can’t compel a non-RTM entity to do anything,” Byrne said.
Additional changes still could be made, however. Barry said he was open to Edwards’ suggestions and pledged the matter would “absolutely” be taken up by the Board of Social Services.
“It will be the next step,” Barry said. “We’ll be reviewing it with the board.”
No additional costs are expected to be incurred by the name change. Barry said there still is stationary with “Department of Social Services” on it, but that will be used up before new stationery with the revised name is ordered
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