Archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) announced Jan. 4 a restructuring of its Community-Based Services division that will result in fewer sites operated directly by CSS and place a greater emphasis on parish-based services.

The new model features a strong emphasis on developing partnerships with successful parish outreach programs throughout the region, a viable alternative approach that leverages CSS support of grass-roots local efforts.

The reorganization makes the best use of limited resources by achieving greater efficiencies and sharpening the focus of social service delivery to those people most in need of assistance.

The West Grove Family Service Center in Chester County will close and a partnership will be formed with Misión Santa Maria Madre de Dios, an outreach program of St. Rocco Parish in Avondale.

The Springfield, Delaware County center will close and merge with the Chester City Family Service center, providing more staff in the most disadvantaged area of the county.

In addition to strengthening operations in a consolidated office in Chester City, a new partnership will be developed with the St. Katharine Drexel Evangelization Center – a program of the namesake parish in the city — to enhance and expand the existing food and clothing distribution efforts as well as extend the literacy program to reach more local residents.

With the merging of family service centers and additional staff reductions throughout CSS, which currently has 317 equivalent full-time employees, 13 employees will be affected.

“Although these changes will be difficult, especially for those affected by reductions and mergers, this plan will allow CSS to provide services to those who need it most throughout the Archdiocese,” said Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia John McIntyre, who oversees Catholic Social Services. “Amid these changes what remains constant is our unwavering commitment to continue the works of the Lord Jesus, affirming, assisting and advocating for individuals, families and communities in need.”

CSS offices in Bucks and Montgomery Counties will continue to serve their communities with large food cupboard programs organized by volunteers working in close collaboration with CSS staff.

Information and referral assistance in the counties will now be provided through a central “CSS Helpline” (267-331-2490) which has been in use in Philadelphia over the past year.

Philadelphia will continue to be served by CSS offices in the Northeast, North and Southwest sections of the city.

“Our planning completely emphasized our long-standing partnership with parishes to serve those in need in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said James Amato, deputy secretary of Catholic Social Services. “Critical safety net programs that include food cupboards, shelter and feeding the homeless, senior centers, after-school programs and pregnancy support remain vibrant.

“Our newly-created partnerships with parishes bring program expansion and recognize the vital link parishes play as first responders,” Amato said.

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Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and member of St. Leo Parish.