Home Local News DSS: Community involvement is key to stopping child abuse in Richmond County

DSS: Community involvement is key to stopping child abuse in Richmond County

Assistant District Attorney Jamie Adams speaks about a child advocacy center coming to Richmond County during a rally to observer Child Abuse Prevention Month. See more photos at the RO's Facebook page.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Advocates of child safety in Richmond County say it takes the community, as a whole, coming together to help prevent abuse and provide care for victims.

“Child abuse prevention is not about a single agency — such as DSS, law enforcement or even the courts — but it’s a duty and investment made by all of our community members,” Social Services Director Robby Hall said Thursday, following a march to Harrington Square to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Hall said the Department of Social Services and the North Carolina Child Welfare System is not currently designed as a prevention-first agency, “but is one in which an event of abuse, neglect or dependency must occur first for us to intervene — not unlike law enforcement or even the courts.”

“We depend on our community to care for all of our children, to stay vigilant and report when children are in danger, to reach out to families that are in need, to reduce the risk of child neglect.”

Jamie Adams has been a prosecutor for about 14 years and currently works for the District Attorney’s office out of Scotland County.

She said there are currently plans for a child advocacy center in Richmond County so kids won’t have to travel an hour away for a forensic interview or medical examination.

Adams said there was such a center in Mecklenburg County, where she got her start, and in Catawba County and she is looking forward to “that same type of progress and just, success, that we can all have here.”

“Not only is it a safe place for children to be able to express themselves, it’s a wonderful place for education,” Adams said. “Because the more educated we are as a community, that’s the best way to stand up against child abuse.”

Adams said advocates want to decrease what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to as adverse childhood experiences, which includes physical and sexual assault, and can manifest into drug abuse and homelessness in adulthood.

“So investing time in these children and supporting those individuals who are working hard to bring that child advocacy center here to our community means the world,” Adams said.

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Hall said the job of social workers has “gotten a lot harder” since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 with social isolation becoming “the norm” with schools and childcare providers seeing “less of our children.”

During the same time, Hall continued, substance misuse increased dramatically, with Richmond County ranking the highest in the number of overdoses per capita of all of the state’s 100 counties. However, he later clarified that not all overdoses resulted in death because of the widespread use of naloxone.

The number of children entering foster care has doubled compared to three years earlier, according to Hall.

As of Tuesday, there were more than 70 foster children — with DSS taking in 110 total so far this year.

Hall said 45% of those are involved in severe substance misuse cases.

“Add to that the complexity and severity of child welfare has increased over the year to include a doubling of our children requiring child medical exams for abuse and severe neglect — and the year is not even over yet,” Hall said.

The director added that the work of social workers and law enforcement to address the issues needs to be acknowledged.

“And with your help, we can make change for the better to increase our community prevention efforts to combat child abuse and neglect in Richmond County,” Hall said, calling for residents to volunteer in community programs, become foster parents and mentors “who’ll reach out to those you see in need.”

Hall added that DSS is in need of foster parents: “I need about 100 more — Because our children need all we can find, and more of us to be available to their needs.”

Recalling Hall’s plea, Adams said, “It’s on our shoulders, as adults, to protect our most vulnerable citizens…because we need nurturing environments for these children.”

 

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.