Hammett named #039;Children#039;s Hero#039;

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2002

Seth Hammett, Alabama's Speaker of the House and a long-time advocate of children's services, was presented with the very first Children's Hero Award today by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).

The presentation was made at a banquet at the Andalusia Country Club. About 125 people attended the banquet.

State DHR Commissioner Bill Fuller said the award was made in recognition of Speaker Hammett's career-long advocacy of improving Alabama's services for children.

"Mr. Hammett's leadership in the House has helped give programs for children a much higher priority in the Alabama Legislature," said Fuller.

"He has had a tremendous impact on our children."

For example, said Fuller, Speaker Hammett was instrumental in increasing state funds for DHR 2003 budget by $1.4 million.

"He was able to achieve this despite the state's financial crunch."

"Speaker Hammet understands that increased spending on some programs is a good investment for the state," said Fuller.

"In his efforts to recruit industry to Alabama, he has found that the availability of quality child care is important to employers.

Workers need the peace of mind of knowing that their children are in good hands."

Over the past two years, DHR has been able to expand subsidized child care services to more than 3,000 additional children.

Currently, about 37,500 Alabama children from low-income working families receive free or subsidized child care each month.

In addition, DHR has been able to increase the number of workers who license and inspect child care facilities.

Fuller said that Speaker Hammett was one of the architects of Children First, which has used funds from the settlement of a tobacco lawsuit to channel millions of dollars into programs for Alabama children.

For example, said Fuller, Children First funds have been used to increase payments to foster parents by about 50 percent.

"Speaker Hammett has shown a deep interest in the progress of the R.C. consent decree," said Fuller.

This federal consent decree, now in its tenth year, is requiring the state to dramatically improve its services to child abuse and neglect victims and foster children.

Fuller said that DHR has been able to increase staffing in its child welfare programs by about 25 percent over the past two years.

"It is no coincidence that the number of child abuse reports is dropping in this state, and that Alabama's child welfare services rank among the best in the nation," said Fuller.

DHR has also been able to increase its Child Support staff by 28 percent over the past 18 months.

For the past two years, the agency's Child Support collections have set records, increasing by some $20 million overall.

"Through his vision and leadership, Speaker Hammett has had a profound impact on the lives of children in this state," said Fuller.

"He is truly a hero to our children, and he has helped to make Alabama a better place to live."