By Marilyn Colson | Chilton Chamber Board of Directors
For several years I have been honored to serve on the board of the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce. From time to time, I am aware that folks wonder “what has the Department of Human Resources got to do with the Chamber”—an advocacy association of community businesses. Our agency is certainly not a business but there are intersecting interests between the two. Just as the Chamber’s goal is to improve the “health and prosperity of our county”, DHR’s mission as a state agency is to provide for the “protection, well-being, and self-sufficiency of children and adults.” In meeting this mission, we employ 45 social workers, case workers, financial support workers and administrative staff.
For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – more commonly called the Food Stamp Program is one of the Federal programs which offers a safety net of support to families and children. Although this program is often criticized, it is one of the government programs that helps working families who need assistance feeding their families. I like to think of it as a program which helps folks who are also trying to help themselves. This assistance is greatly needed at present with inflation hitting everyone’s budget. But in addition to the assistance to families, this program is also a huge benefit to our local economy.
Each month in Chilton County over a million dollars in SNAP benefits are provided to over 3000 families and elderly adults. These benefits flow directly to the grocery stores of the county that employ numerous Chilton County residents. The ripple effects on the local economy and beyond is most important.
Other financial support programs of the agency also benefit our local economy. The child support program assists parents and children to receive support from absent parents – this keeps these children off welfare. Again, the child support benefits support the family, and the financial assistance flows into the local economy. The Family Assistance and JOBS program help able bodied families with children get back to work. This program has been so effective along with the improving jobs market that there are less than 100 families on welfare in Chilton County.
DHR is also involved in the protection of the vulnerable in the county: children at risk of abuse and neglect as well as the elderly who may have outlived all their caregivers and are no longer are able to care for themselves. Or unfortunately, the elderly who also may be abused or neglected or have their finances exploited by others.
The child welfare functions of the agency include the investigation of reports of abuse and neglect and the provision of foster care when necessary. The goal of the child welfare program is to keep families together or to reunify families whenever it is safely possible. Services are provided to the families to assist with this process. For times when safety cannot be assured, the agency recruits and licenses foster/adoptive homes which can provide a temporary or a forever home for these children. All of this this work is overlooked by the Juvenile Court of Chilton County. Currently, there are approximately 130 foster children in the custody of Chilton County DHR. There are approximately 55 licensed foster/adoptive homes. We are so appreciative of the Chilton Community – businesses/churches/organizations and families who provide overwhelming support for the foster children each year at Christmas.
These programs and services make for a better quality of life for all in Chilton County and we are proud to be in partnership with the Chilton Chamber of Commerce. You may find out more about the Chilton Chamber of Commerce at www.chiltonchamber.org.
Anyone who is interested in being a foster or adoptive parent to children in Chilton County, offering a foster home for the elderly, or serving as a volunteer in some capacity, please call Marilyn Colson at 205-258-4915.