Archive for Wednesday, November 28, 1990


November 28, 1990


James Wann, who became director of the newly formed seven-county Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services area office in Lawrence last month, took a minute to list the office's numerous responsibilities.

Wann started with protective services for abused or neglected children. Then he listed home care services for the handicapped or elderly and funding for nursing homes, rehabilitation services, day care and jobs programs.

And that's just on the service side.

On the income maintenance side, Wann said the office maintains income programs for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, general assistance and a number of medical programs.

"They all fit together; one is an extension of the other," Wann said of the programs. "Otherwise, it would be mind-boggling."

WANN, 55, said he is still in the process of determining the number of clients the new area office is responsible for.

But he estimated that in the seven counties, the office deals with 8,000 families in income-maintenance programs and 3,500 people in social service programs.

Besides Douglas County, the area office covers Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson, Atchison and Franklin counties.

"I think the system works very well," Wann said. "It is a government bureaucracy with a mission of extreme importance to see people are maintained with food and shelter and making sure they are not exploited and abused."

But Wann said SRS often must deal with conflicting values within a community, which makes the job difficult.

For example, in potential child abuse or neglect cases, SRS workers must decide where parents' rights stop and the state's rights begin.

WANN BRINGS years of social welfare experience to the area director's post in Lawrence.

He has spent the last 20 years working for SRS, including the last three years as director of the area office in Osawatomie and 17 years before that as director of the area office in Kansas City, Kan.

Wann said because of population, Douglas County will be closer to what he dealt with in Kansas City than the more rural Osawatomie. But he said it is too early for him to say whether urban problems experienced in Kansas City also will be present here.

"The size of population does not necessarily mean an area takes on the characteristics of an urban community," he said.

Wann said SRS is in the process of finding office space to accommodate about 95 people who will work in Lawrence, up from about 60 current employees at the presently overcrowded office at 619 E. Eighth.

HE SAID SRS hopes to open a new office in a location that is near where SRS clients live and near a major highway for easy access. SRS hopes to be in the new office by March.

"We'll need money from the state as we grow," he said, pointing out that Douglas County has one of the highest rates of growth in the state.

Because of budget constraints, SRS still is under a hiring freeze, and filling most positions needs the approval of Acting SRS Secretary Dennis Taylor.

But Wann said the reorganization ordered by Taylor has freed up five supervisors to work directly with clients.

Two people who worked with Wann in the Osawatomie area office have been chosen for top supervisory positions in Lawrence. Bill Pickering is now chief of social services and Darrell Cossairt is chief of administative services.

Other top positions were filled by Orveda Anderson, chief of income maintenance, Sylvia Hallowell, area office trainer, and Susan Warriner, area personnel management specialist.

The former income maintenance section supervisor, Ernie Dyer, has been named to the new position of ombudsman for the Lawrence area office, while former section chief Jim Baze is supervisor for adult services.

Bob Byers continues as supervisor of youth services, Carolyn Duffy is supervisor of foster care, and Sylvia Lowder is income maintenance supervisor.

WANN SAID the Kansas Legislature faces some difficult choices concerning SRS, decisions he said are best left to elected officials. There have been calls for splitting up the agency, and calls for both funding increases and funding cuts. A special task force currently is studying SRS after huge budget overruns crippled state finances last year.

"They have to make hard decisions," Wann said. "I think it will be kind of like being a basketball referee. No matter what call you make, half the people are going to be mad."

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