09/28/04 — DSS to hire more child services workers

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DSS to hire more child services workers

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on September 28, 2004 1:57 PM

Wayne County officials hope to hire four additional people to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect and ease what they have described as "a crisis situation."

Social Services recently received permission to fill three of the vacant positions in child protective services. The department had been unable to hire new employees because of a county hiring freeze.

And the county has been notified that it will receive state funding for a fourth additional social worker.

"Hallelujah!" said Social Services board member Linda Jones to the news at Monday's meeting.

Once the new hires are made and trained, the county should be able to reduce the caseloads in child protective services, said Social Service Director Judy Pelt.

Wayne County's social workers have been assigned as many as 35 investigations apiece. State guidelines have called for no more than 12 investigations per worker. A recent survey found that Wayne County was one of only five N.C. counties out of compliance.

Social Services has had nine vacancies in the child protective services unit, partially due to a job freeze ordered this summer by County Manager Lee Smith. Mrs. Pelt said in August that "children are at risk in this county."

Mrs. Pelt and her staff worked with Smith on an agreement for three workers to be hired. This also allowed the county to receive the new state money.

County Commissioner J.D. Evans thanked Mrs. Pelt for working toward a compromise. "I know it took much time and effort," he said.

Although the department had two people lined up for hiring when the freeze was enacted, state law will not allow the county to hire those people without re-advertising the positions.