A Brief History of the Department of Social Services

The very first local Welfare Board of Prince William County met July 22, 1938 with three members: G.C. Russell, J.W. Alvey, and Harry Davis
2013 marks the 75th anniversary for the Prince William County Department of Social Services.  The Department was first established as the “Welfare Department” in 1938 with two employees: one superintendent and one administrative position.   The first superintendent, Mrs. Marian Lewis, was the only worker.  She made decisions on every case and placed children with community families.  She transported sick people to the hospital (the nearest one, at that time, was Alexandria Hospital) and placed "incorrigible" children for the Courts (there were two Church-run homes for children in the County, in which "problem" children could be placed.) Dependent children whose families could not care for them were also placed by the Department with other families, but at first there were no payments to these foster parents. It was not until the 1940's that foster care payments were initiated.  The caseload size for all programs of the entire Department was under 100 and Mrs. Lewis had to report monthly to the Board of Supervisors about each client receiving assistance and the family's circumstances. Decisions on who was “worthy” of assistance were made on a very personal basis.  The very first local Welfare Board of Prince William County met on July 22, 1938 with three members: G.C. Russell, J.W. Alvey, and Harry Davis. The first budget approved by the Local Welfare Board of Prince William County totaled $22,000 including assistance and administrative costs.  As the programs became increasingly complex and the numbers served dramatically expanded, the board’s emphasis shifted to policy and administrative issues.  Board members now have responsibilities in policy planning and development, policy review and approval, program review and budget approval. 
Through the decades, the Department of Social Services has changed with the county and the country; adding foster care services, adoption services, youth residential services, Aid to Dependent Children, TANF, Medicaid, Food Stamps (now SNAP), FAMIS, VIEW, Child Care, homeless services…and more. 
Thank you for joining us as we celebrate our rich history and contributions to Prince William County by honoring our past, celebrating the present and envisioning the future. 
 
PWC DSS 75th Anniversary Steering Committee