Williams County Jobs and Family Services have been quite busy being involved with three high-profile investigations.
Executive Director Fred Lord came April 27 to give his first annual review and informed the county board of his agency’s role in cases involving two federal agencies and another from the state of Texas.
Lord said his agency was asked to assist the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security on separate investigations of interstate child pornography, Lord said. Agents would come in ask for some assistance and then leave town.
“There was a buzz when the feds came to town,” Lord said.
The third case involved a runaway teenage girl from the Texas foster care system who had family in the area. Lord said his agency was asked to locate the girl and place in her custody until Texas authorities could arrive. That case was linked to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Lord said. The girl was placed in a juvenile facility near Stryker because she had some crimes on her record, he said.
The agency has been reorganized to be more efficient, Lord said of his first year. The focus now is to maximize the federal grants available to fund more programs and hopefully add a couple more staff members.
Lord stressed he has not had to be involved with any cases because of the quality work his staff of 41 does. Monthly updates are the norm as Lord brings one of his staffers to the commissioners’ meeting as well.
“Last year, I was dragging them up here,” Lord said.
Among his accomplishments since taking over has being overhauling the structure of the department to make it more efficient. This has been done without adding staff positions, he said.
“I’ve been making sure I have been putting the right people in the right places, doing the right things,” Lord said. “We put in an administrator level so we actually have people overseeing while the programs are going”. The agency has added an attorney to help the prosecutor out on case determinations. A business administrator has been brought on to “make we know where the people and the money is going,” Lord said.
Compared to a year ago, referrals have stabilized, while screenings have doubled, Lord said. Use of the policy manual has increased and assists staff on a day-to-day basis.
“There are so many new people, it helps,” Lord said.
With the new streamlined structure, the department is nearing the maximums on the number of caseloads it can handle, Lord said. A consultant has been brought in to help the department maximize the funding, he said. “So we are making the best use of that money,” Lord said.
Angie Johnson was brought in seven months ago to get the most money possible. The department is not given funding from the state, but can reimbursed as more programs are rolled out. Some of those will be a new training program for young people ages 16-24 to get a job.
Commission President Lewis Hilkert praised Lord and relayed to him compliments shared by other officials Hilkert has met at various conferences. “They said we hired the right person,” Hilkert said.