FRONT ROYAL – Warren County Department of Social Services Director DeAnna Cheatham said her office has seven vacancies that are difficult to fill due to low salaries.

She said those employees, who would have formerly been known as “social workers,” are in the family services department, which would have 12 employees if fully staffed. All of the vacancies, she said, have been previously staffed and are not new positions.

Cheatham said the money budgeted for starting salaries is $33,000 and it is difficult to find applicants who accept job offers because nearby localities offer up to $20,000 more.

She said while the department can offer prospective employees a healthy work environment and a recently renovated office building, that does not compete with the larger salaries about 20 minutes away in Winchester and Frederick County.

When recent college graduates do accept jobs in the department, Cheatham said they often undergo the necessary training and re-locate within less than a year.

She pointed out to the supervisors that 3,583 Warren County citizens lived in poverty last year, a number that includes 1,093 or 13 percent of area children. She added that nearly 9,000 citizens received benefits and there were 835 child protective complaints.

Cheatham said she presented those numbers to tell the supervisors that staff is getting burned out and the department is in dire straits to fill the vacancies.

“We are at a place where the safety of the community, the safety of our children is going to be at risk if I can’t get more of these positions filled,” she said.

Cheatham said while she is advertising to fill some of the positions, she is also working with state agencies to come up with other avenues to recruit and retain employees. She added that the county is undergoing a compensation study and she is interested to see if that will benefit the department.

Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com