Families and Communities Together Director Linda Ogden said her office has received four Social and Rehabilitative Service Referrals Thursday.
“We rely on local funds for family assistance,” Ogden said. “We’re out of money; we’re scrambling for funds. It’s a big burden on local resources.”
The referrals follow the closure of six SRS offices in Kansas by Sept. 30, including an office in McPherson. Ogden said it has been a continuing economic trend that led to the 2004 closure of an SRS office in Marion.
On the face of it, not much will change for the Marion County residents served by SRS. Many residents already traveled to Newton. Ogden expects many of the employees at McPherson will now work out of the Newton office.
However, the SRS closure will affect Marion County in the fact that the Newton officials were already overburdened before their coverage area and service populations were widened.
Ogden expects the change will affect working, “down-on-their-luck families” the most.
“The child investigation stuff has not changed,” she said. “You can hardly cut down on that; that involves the life of a child.”
“There’s a lot of people that need assistance right now,” Ogden said.
Acquiring financial assistance from SRS is more difficult for all families with fewer offices but the geographical distance for Marion County families makes the situation even worse. To collect, they would need a working vehicle and be searching for a job. Driving back and forth to Newton for a check may not be worth the gas money.
“It’s a Catch 22,” Ogden said.
While Ogden feels for the families affected, she is also concerned for the employees of the agency who were already working as hard as they could.
“Now it’s more removed and they’re busier,” Ogden said. “They do a lot of good.”
This cut to four state SRS offices seemed unlikely six years ago, losing a home office in Marion seemed unthinkable. Odgen said more cuts could still be on the horizon.
“Who knows what the future holds,” she said. “It’s driven by the economy.”