Administering social services has changed profoundly in recent years. In the past, providing social services tended to be a top down operation with the people who needed the services taking what they could get with little input into the process.
“It used to be a ‘You will do this’ kind of thing,” said Lisa Tatum, Economic Independence Division Chief of the Prince William County Department of Social Services. “Now our case management philosophy is more working with the family and looking at all the pieces of what’s going on and not just addressing one issue. It’s all connected. The changes in the philosophical approaches have been more holistic and systems oriented in working with community partners instead of everybody just doing their own thing,” Tatum said.
Many of the social workers who attended a recent seminar in conjunction with the Prince William Department Social Services’ 75th Anniversary celebration, also talked of the wider approach to administering social services and said technology has enhanced that approach. With 1,213 years of collective experience in the room, the memory of some of the social workers extended back to mimeograph machines and the advent of the fax machine.
Tatum said that in the last few years, the evolution of technology and new philosophical approaches paralleled and complemented each other. Tatum said technology has helped pull all of the pieces together, allowing social workers from across government agencies and departments to get a better idea of how to get a family back on its feet with help from religious institutions, charities and non-profits. Broadening databases has helped social workers more easily find, identify and match services to their clients. Social media has helped social workers communicate more easily with their clients, which helps social workers in their core goal of giving aid.
“We do things now using technology and social media to communicate with people, allow people to interact with us and communicate with each other in ways we couldn’t do before, but the commonality of purpose is in helping people. The way we do it has been the biggest change,” Tatum said.
The Prince William County Department of Social Services was first established in 1938 as the “Welfare Department” to serve low income families with children and to protect children from abandonment or abuse. They continue to focus on child safety today, as well as offer youth residential services, benefits for low income families, homeless services and prevention services, and more. The Department’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in Prince William County by affording individuals and families the support, protection and safety necessary to enable them to build self-reliant lives.