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Hancock school to get an on-site Social Services coordinator

February 17, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

HANCOCK - Troubled students in Hancock will be able to reach the Social Services programs they need with the help of an on-site coordinator expected to be on the job in July.

The coordinator will work with Hancock's 343 Middle/Senior High School students and their families to identify problems and existing resources through the Safe Families Outreach program, said David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.

The position was included in the Washington County Department of Social Services fiscal 2001 budget, which must receive final approval of the Washington County Commissioners, he said.

The decision to place a coordinator in the Middle/High School came as a result of talks with the school principals, the mayor, police chief and others, he said.

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"Through the discussions they were able to identify a need" for a coordinator for older students, said Engle.

Hancock has a population of 1,926 and a mean income of $13,500, said Engle.

It has the highest ratio per capita of subsidized housing of municipalities in Washington County and 54 percent of students at Hancock receive free or reduced lunches.

Engle said a similar program is in place at Hancock Elementary School.

"It's a beneficial program which links services to families and takes away the stigma of Social Services intervening. It promotes the image of (the Department of Social Services) helping families and meeting their needs," said Barbara Stouffer, elementary school principal.

Engle budgeted $42,800 for the coordinator position's salary and benefits.

Hancock's location about 30 miles west of Hagerstown can make it difficult for people there to access Social Service programs, he said. The coordinator would work out of an office in Hancock, said Engle.

The on-site coordinator would receive special training in domestic violence from Citizen's Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA), Engle said.

The coordinator's duties will be to identify domestic violence situations and provide victims with counseling, said Engle.

"They are going to try and make sure the kids are safe. Often when there is domestic violence to a spouse or partner it spills over to the children," he said.

The coordinator would work with students to educate them about appropriate behavior and rules in families, providing a role model for healthy relationships, he said.

The coordinator also would get immediate help for families if someone were hurt, he said.

The coordinator will "be able to identify more cases sooner than through our hot line (which is usually called) when violence has already erupted. This would be preventative," said Engle.

Children with better home lives tend to be more successful in school, have better attendance and behavior, he said.

The Hancock's Middle/Senior High School would welcome the person filling the coordinator position, Vice Principal Larry Smith said.

Students will be able to concentrate on their studies instead of worrying about family or personal problems, said Smith.

"It's a win-win situation," he said.

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