Department of Social Services releases report on child protective services for year

Published 12:06 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

SALISBURY — Child protective services, a unit within the county’s Department of Social Services, assessed 1,773 reports of abuse, neglect or dependency of a child in Rowan County during fiscal year 2022.

Micah Ennis, the director of DSS, reported children’s services statistics to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting.

The county offers child protective services, foster care and adoption options. Child protective services is responsible for receiving, screening and assessing reports of alleged abuse, neglect or dependency. The agency received 2,588 reports, but not all were accepted or assessed since some reports don’t meet the definition of abuse, neglect or dependency defined in state statutes.

“People are worried about a lot of kids and they call us about their worry. We want that,” Ennis said. “All a caller needs is a reasonable cause to suspect. It’s our job then to determine does this meet the statutory definition.”

An average of 65 children per month received mandatory in-home services, which consists of engaging with the family where the report occurred and trying to figure out what can be done to help.

“If we found the report of abuse or neglect to be true, we have to provide a service. If we can do that in the home, that’s our preference because our preference is to help the family get past whatever the issue is that created the abuse or neglect,” said Ennis.

In-home services help families with a variety of problems and are an alternative to sending a child into foster care if the problems are not severe enough for that. Issues like certain kinds of substance abuse disorders, mental health problems, intellectual disabilities or parents who have trouble planning meals for their children would call for in-home services. 

“Many individuals in our community are really struggling with substance abuse disorders and mental health — things that aren’t treated or are under-treated, so those are the biggest ones, and they create other circumstances,” Ennis said.

In the county’s foster care program, 270 children were served in fiscal year 2022, with an average of 169 children in care each month. Total expenditures on foster care placement reached $1.8 million, which was down from previous years, Ennis said. In fiscal year 2021, total expenditures on foster care placement was $2.2 million, down from over $2.8 million in fiscal year 2020.

In fiscal year 2021, 73 children entered foster care custody. Those numbers were up in 2022 with 106 children entering custody.

Children who exited foster care custody dropped in 2022. In 2021, 136 children exited, but in 2022 only 100 children exited foster care custody.

There are currently 40 licensed foster homes in Rowan County but Ennis said DSS is trying to grow that number.