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The new ‘School Success’ program is seeing progress

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Department of Social Services’ new “School Success” initiative to help prevent school absenteeism is initially proving to be successful.

DSS Commissioner Anne Solar told the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee Tuesday that it is an initiative her department is now “pretty excited about.”

Solar said that of the first seven absenteeism cases, only one is still not attending school. She said DSS continues to work on that case, which involves a sixth grader. She said school officials have been “very accommodating.”

“It does appear to be going well,” Solar said. “We’re awaiting more referrals.”

The Board of Supervisors on Aug. 12 created a caseworker for DSS to help prevent school absenteeism. DSS requested the full-time, two-year position, effective Sept. 1 and running through Aug. 31. 2021. The department hopes to focus on preventive services for families with young children experiencing educational neglect or chronic absenteeism. The cost of the caseworker is being reimbursed through state aid.

“I got a lot of positive comments,” said Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. “We took the initiative to do this with the schools.”

Solar said that having the caseworker delve into problems causing absenteeism has been “very helpful” in helping with family issues in general.

In other DSS committee business:

∫ Solar reported on recoupment for welfare fraud money through Intentional Program Violations, or IPVs, which are false claims by a person to obtain welfare benefits. She said previous district attorneys wanted to wait until welfare fraud cases were settled before attempting to “recoup” money from violators. But she said current Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown feels that process can be done earlier.

Solar said at least 10 percent of “cost avoidance” money can be claimed back earlier. She said it can sometimes be a year before fraud cases are decided, but the county is working on “getting back some of our money.”

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said “recoup” may not be the proper word, since in some fraud cases government hadn’t actually doled out money to begin with.

∫ Solar gave the committee a “reminder” that the 17-year-old provision involving the state’s Raise the Age law kicked in Oct. 1, which was last Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on April 10, 2017 signed legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18 years old. Young people aged 16 and 17 are no longer permitted to be housed in adult facilities or jails. The law went into effect for 16-year-olds in October 2018, and now this past week for 17-year-olds.

∫ The committee decided to get rid of numerous “scrap” items from DSS by sending them to the landfill. They included many file cabinets, desks and workstations. Solar said the original thought was to have a sale, but supervisors decided to scrap the items because of the small amount of revenue they might generate.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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