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DHR works around pandemic challenges

The Chilton County Department of Human Resources has remained fully staffed and operational throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and that is likely not to change.

According to Chilton County DHR Director Marilyn Colson, she does not see DHR closing its doors because there are too many people that depend on the department on a daily basis.

“Protection and well-being functions assigned by the state and federal government do not allow for the closing of the agency,” Colson said. “We are working.”

One of the ways people have been more dependent on DHR is the amount of food stamp applications that have increased in the county in recent weeks, which Colson expects to continue to rise as the pandemic ensues.

“Many citizens negatively affected by the virus by being laid off or no longer being able to work will depend on our financial support services, such as food assistance or child support,” Colson said.

She also remembers the food stamp numbers becoming “massive” during the financial crisis in 2007.

Colson encouraged anyone wanting to apply for food assistance to do so online by visiting mydhr.gov and following the instructions given.

However, one of the positives that Colson believes can come from these tough times is the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones due to families having to be isolated with each other.

“I know it’s a stressful time, but families have the chance to learn more about each other,” Colson said.

Something that remains the same regardless of what is going on in the world is the fact that Chilton County DHR currently has 156 foster children in its system.

The responsibility for those children falls upon DHR even in the midst of the pandemic.

“It is an obvious challenge to make sure that all visits are made even in the best of times,” Colson said. “The coronavirus crisis is intensifying that challenge.”

These new challenges will tend to fall especially hard on foster parents.

“Our foster parents are continuing to do a heroic job to provide safety and nurturing for the foster children in their homes,” Colson said. “Several children may be in one home, and with schools and day care being closed, occupying the children’s time in constructive ways can be a very demanding task.”

Child welfare workers continue to make face-to-face visits with foster children when FaceTime or video conferencing is not a possibility.

“This is a safety measure, as every foster child must be seen face-to-face every 30 days,” Colson said.

Social workers are encouraged to visit outside with a foster child or parent if at all possible when making a home visit.

“We are particularly blessed in Chilton County that we are primarily rural,” Colson said. “There is space here to get out in nature and be able to remember that not everything has changed and life can be normal again.”

Chilton County DHR is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and its office is located at 500 Airport Road in Clanton.