11/20/06 — Duplin offers new support for students

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Duplin offers new support for students

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 20, 2006 1:45 PM

Faced with a growing population of students with health, home and academic problems, the Duplin County School System is working to meet their needs and provide them with opportunities to stay in school.

For the school system, said Pam Edwards, director of support services for Duplin Schools, this means going beyond simply teaching the students, to taking an active role in their lives inside and outside of the classroom.

Helping with this is an initiative sponsored by Gov. Mike Easley that provided funding for six of the county's 15 schools to receive their own nurse and social worker. Implemented in March, those positions began work full-time at the start of the school year.

"Those (six) were just the schools we applied for at the time," Mrs. Edwards said. "We tried to stay in two districts rather than spread them out all over."

The hope is that by focusing on those six schools -- E.E. Smith Middle School, James Kenan High School, Warsaw Elementary School, Warsaw Middle School, Charity Middle School and Rose Hill-Wallace High School -- they will be able to work with entire families and follow children as they advance in grades, she said.

"That makes the most difference," Mrs. Edwards said.

For the rest of the district, there are four social workers and eight nurses.

But more help is on the way -- this time in the form of a $420,804 grant the General Assembly approved for 12 counties, including Duplin, to hire a child and family facilitator through the county Department of Social Services.

The facilitator will then coordinate efforts between the school system, Social Services and other county agencies to help the child and the family.

"It's a family initiative to help children that are having problems at home," said Millie Brown, director of Duplin Social Services. "They're not necessarily going to be neglected or abused, but they'll have difficulties."

The new position won't change the services the children receive, Mrs. Edwards explained, and those who are suspected victims of abuse and neglect will still be referred to Social Services, but the facilitator will simply make the process more effective and efficient.

"It will be a one person contact," she said. "Communication will be much better."