Georgia’s Department of Human Services Commissioner Clyde Reese III has joined in the chorus of agency chiefs outlining for lawmakers the challenges ahead for state agencies charged with keeping children safe amid the most recent wave of massive budget cuts.
His 30-minute presentation Thursday [view it here] before members of the joint House and Senate appropriations committee comes on the heels of new Governor Nathan Deal’s announcement last week that all state agency budgets on average will be slashed by four percent during the remainder of the fiscal year ending in June. In his first state-of-the-state address, Governor Deal also warned that another seven percent decrease should be expected for fiscal year 2012. Newly appointed Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Amy Howell presented her planned cuts before the same committee on Tuesday. Reese tells JJIE.org that the budget shortfalls will undoubtedly make work tougher for his agency, which oversees the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Aging Services Division (DAS), Child Support Services Division (DCSS) and Residential Child Care Office (RCC).
“Much of what we do as an agency is deliver services to family and children,” he says. “DFACS is a large part of that. Child support definitely affects the lives of children. The cuts also impact services for the aging and there are a lot of elderly people taking care of grandchildren now, so all of it ultimately affects the lives of children in some way.”
In light of the cuts, Reese says DHS is making it a priority to try and protect “front line case workers” who in recent years have been consistently hit with “caseloads that have grown exponentially.”
“None of the cuts are things that we necessarily want to do, but the fiscal climate in the state now calls for us to do so,” says Reese. “There is no fluff [left in the budget], now we’re down to the bone.”
DHS is also working diligently to maintaining state dollars allocated for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides temporary financial assistance to families transitioning out off public assistance, primarily through employment.
“It's a fundamental component of what we do,” he says. “The budget cuts that we’ve been experiencing are not just for this year; this has been the case for the last three to four years. We, as an agency, are spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to provide the same level of service with less dollars.”
Got a juvenile justice story idea? Contact JJIE.org staff writer Chandra R. Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thomas, a former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow and Kiplinger Public Affairs Journalism Fellow, is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has worked for Fox 5 News in Atlanta and Atlanta, People and Essence magazines.