BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County Department of Social Services (DSS) is asking for the public’s help in improving its operations.

Two meetings are planned next week to hear input.

The agency, at 311 E. Main St. in Berryville, is the county’s Virginia Department of Social Services office. It administers child and adult protective services, foster care and adoption programs within the county. It also oversees the distribution of public assistance benefits such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) locally.

TANF, the modern welfare program, provides eligible families a monthly payment to help cover their basic needs while helping household members find work and become self-sufficient.

SNAP used to be known as the food stamp program. Benefits now are provided through cards read electronically at stores instead of paper stamps.

Clarke County DSS is developing a strategic plan to guide how services are provided to clients during the next few years.

“Residents of our community face many challenges at various times,” said Director Jennifer Parker. “Our goal is to ensure everyone knows about, and can easily access, a range of programs that can help them navigate and move beyond difficult life situations, whatever they are.”

The public meetings are part of the planning effort. One will be held from 4-6 p.m. Monday at the Boyce Volunteer Fire Company’s social hall on Greenway Avenue in Boyce. The other will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the John H. Enders Fire Company & Rescue Squad’s social hall on North Buckmarsh Street in Berryville.

During the meetings, current and past recipients of DSS services can discuss their experiences with staff members and provide recommendations for improvements.

However, “any Clarke County citizen who would like to give input” is welcome to attend, Parker said, “whether they receive benefits (and services) or not.”

Information about various services, such as foster care and the winter fuel assistance program, will be provided.

Those planning to attend one of the meetings are asked to send an email to jennifer.l.parker@dss.virginia.gov or call 540-329-8380 ahead of time. That will enable the agency to determine how many refreshments to buy.

Anyone wanting to provide input but who can’t attend either meeting can email written comments to a consulting firm at info@snowflakellc.com by Monday.

Regardless of how comments are submitted, Parker encourages the public to participate in the agency’s strategic planning.

“Our success largely depends on our understanding of our residents’ needs, how much they know about us and their willingness to come to us for help,” she said. “After all, we exist to serve the people of Clarke County.”

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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