Shirley E. Marcus, who in 1989 took over a Baltimore welfare department that was reeling from efforts to unseat former director George G. Musgrove, yesterday announced plans to resign in August to take over as deputy director of the Child Welfare League of America.
"This was a very, very tough decision," Ms. Marcus said of her planned departure as head of the Baltimore Department of Social Services. "I realize this position is indeed an opportunity of a lifetime and an appropriate next step for me."
Ms. Marcus was praised as an effective administrator who was willing to turn to private sector welfare providers to stretch public welfare dollars.
"The mayor said he is proud that she was selected for her new position and is sorry to see her leave," said Angela C. Gibson, an assistant to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "She has done an outstanding job for the citizens of Baltimore."
"She clearly had a sensitivity to her clients and worked well with the advocate community," said Lynda E. Meade, vice president of Welfare Advocates, whose organization represents a coalition of some 200 Maryland advocacy groups. "In difficult times she was making a positive difference."
Ms. Marcus took over a 2,500-employee department bitterly divided byMr. Musgrove's dogged resistance to efforts by Mayor Schmoke to get him to step down. Mr. Musgrove, whose job at the time was protected by the merit system -- meaning he could not be fired without cause -- was transferred to the state Transportation Department and eventually resigned.
Ms. Marcus plunged into her job, visiting virtually all of the department's offices and holding numerous staff meetings. Less popular with some department workers, however, was her decision to reassign the managers of several district offices.
"There was a need for a lot of healing and for the staff to feel that top management recognized their efforts," said Maryland Department of Human Resources chief Carolyn W. Colvin. "She was just what Baltimore needed."
The new DSS chief, whose job no longer is protected by the civil service laws, will be selected jointly by the mayor and Ms. Colvin.
The $400 million Baltimore Department of Social Services, which is funded almost entirely by the Maryland DHR, is responsible for a widerange of welfare and social service programs. It provides benefits to some 37,000 families through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and is responsible for more than 2,000 foster children in the city.
During Ms. Marcus' tenure, the department was responsible for implementing welfare reforms called for in the federal Family Support Act of 1988. In what has been described as a major overhaul of the Maryland welfare system, the department expanded job training programs for welfare recipients as well as child care programs and medical care for job trainees, and stepped up enforcement of child support requirements and other measures designed to reduce the cost of the welfare system.
Before she was named DSS chief by the mayor on Jan. 5, 1989, Ms. Marcus was head of the state energy assistance program and other social welfare projects during the 1980s.
Ms. Marcus will join the 71-year-old child welfare league, a federation of 650 public and private family service agencies in U.S. and Canada, Sept. 9.