County Social Services Staff Reinforces Empathy,
Compassion through Poverty Simulation Training
Role-play scenarios offer DCFS staff unique insight into the clients they serve
Poughkeepsie, NY … Today, staff from the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services (DCFS) couldn’t pay their bills on time, struggled to figure out transportation to work, faced unexpected health issues and much more.
It was all part of an immersive poverty simulation designed to help them better understand the complex needs many of their clients have – with the ultimate goal of reinforcing empathy and compassion for the County residents they serve each day to offer even better service. The training, held at the MJN Convention Center in Poughkeepsie, took place throughout the day in two sessions, allowing staff from each of DCFS’ various departments to take part and benefit.
During today’s simulation, DCFS employees assumed the roles of individuals and families living on limited incomes. They had to navigate a variety of real-life scenarios, such as finding employment, securing housing and accessing essential services, all while trying to meet their basic needs. This hands-on experience provided DCFS staff a firsthand perspective on the challenges many clients encounter while allowing them to develop a deeper appreciation for the complexities of poverty – all to better serve residents who come to DCFS for assistance.
DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said, “Understanding the experiences of our clients and the challenges they have as they navigate our systems is essential for providing effective support and assistance. Today’s poverty simulation training underscores our County’s commitment to empathetic service and our dedication to improving the lives of our residents.”
In 2022, DCFS delivered services to more than 1 in 10 Dutchess County residents, reaching over 30,000 unduplicated individuals across all programs, including temporary assistance, child and adult protective services, youth services, foster care, Medicaid and child support, among others.
Poverty is a complex issue that affects individuals and families in numerous ways, and DCFS is committed to equipping its staff with the knowledge and understanding needed to better serve the community. Today’s poverty simulation training offered a unique opportunity for staff members to gain insights into the daily struggles and obstacles faced by residents living in poverty.
The poverty simulation is a highly interactive experience designed to help participants understand what a typical low-income family experiences trying to survive from month to month. In today’s simulation, DCFS staff assumed the roles of family members in poverty who interacted with volunteers playing the roles of service providers and other community resources, including a bank, employer, supermarket, health clinic, landlord, school, child care, social services department and utility company.
Poverty simulations are powerful exercises designed to help human service providers deepen their understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by those living in poverty and how current systems, policies and practices create barriers.
DCFS is committed to supporting its workforce to better address the unique needs of the individuals and families it serves. The department’s ongoing commitment to professional development ensures staff members are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Dutchess County residents.
Commissioner Marzouka said, “Residents who seek assistance from us do so during challenging times in their lives, when they need the most compassion from the staff serving them. Today’s training reinforced the difficulties our clients often face, allowing our workers to see things from the client’s perspective and incorporate this experience when helping residents.”
Additional information about DCFS is available on the department’s website.