Pubdate: Tue, 02 Dec 2003
Source: Times Daily (Florence, AL)
Copyright: 2003 Times Daily
Author: Emilio Sahurie
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


FLORENCE - Other issues besides money dominate Alabama Department of Human
Resources Commissioner Bill Fuller's agenda these days.

More than 5,000 adults, such as the elderly and people with mental illness,
are victims of neglect and abuse in Alabama. Fuller says that's a
conservative estimate for social workers to tackle a problem dealing with
what he calls "Alabama's other children."

Improving how the state deals with adults in need is as important as the
6,000 children in foster care, he said. Fuller said there's a financial and
legal incentive for improving care for adults, citing a 1988 case in which
DHR was sued for not ensuring children with special needs were adequately
provided when they were placed in the foster-care system.

Fuller, who was visiting several DHR agencies in north Alabama, spent Monday
afternoon with children advocates from the Shoals. The former Chambers
County legislator also spoke about other issues facing DHR workers on the
front lines of the welfare agency.

The charismatic agency head known for his humor and bow ties, was the
keynote speaker during a Children's Policy Council luncheon at the Richards
Center in Florence. More than 60 officials from agencies that work with
children in Colbert and Lauderdale counties attended the luncheon.

Speaking to a room that went silent after hearing comments on children and
drugs, Fuller told advocates of a new threat for social workers to consider.
He said about 20 percent of new child welfare cases are being driven by
families involved in the production or selling of methamphetamines.

"We are extracting children in every county," said Fuller, describing
incidents with children being pulled from homes that double as crystal meth

At Monday's luncheon, local advocates also told Fuller they would pursue
state grants next year to build a family resource center in Lauderdale

DHR, which handles a $1.3 billion budget that is mostly funded by federal
moneys, has given start-up dollars for resource centers in the state.

The state's 21 family resource centers provide a place for families that
need assistance to turn to, said Barbara Williams, a field director for the
Department of Children's Affairs.

Williams said a typical resource center is coordinated by a variety of
social agencies that may provide food stamps, offer basic health care and
other services under one roof.

"Transportation is such a problem, that these centers provide one
stop-shopping for children services," Williams said.
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