Harrison releases welfare report

CADIZ– The Harrison County Department of Jobs and Family Services installed 422 blue pinwheels on the steps of the Harrison County Courthouse in honor of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

The blue pinwheel is a national symbol for child abuse prevention. Each pinwheel the DJFS installed represents a report of abuse or neglect they received in 2018.

The Harrison County DJFS also released their Child Welfare Annual Report for 2018 on Wednesday at the Harrison County Board of Commissioners Meeting for CANPM. DJFS Assistant Director Deb Knight read the report aloud at the meeting.

According to the report, the 422 reports of abuse or neglect were received last year, 119 of which were screened-out. Knight explained that the DJFS has a complicated screening process and guidelines that case workers must follow when investigating each report. They must look at each report and decipher whether it is indeed a case of abuse or neglect. If there is insufficient information, such as no names or address included, the report is screened out, but remains in their system to form a history, she said.

Of the 134 screened in reports, 38 percent were neglect cases, 25 percent physical abuse, 22 percent sexual abuse, 9 percent medical neglect, and 6 percent emotional maltreatment.

Knight stated the agency had 25 children taken into custody in 2018. The placement costs for those 25 children was $882,256. 43 percent of the money source was from Federal reimbursements and the other 57 percent payment source was local dollars. More than half of the cost of care (55 percent) was due to group and residential care facilities and the other half was for licensed foster homes (45 percent). Knight said that the high cost was mostly due to the trauma children have experienced, which requires a higher level of care, like that which a group home or care center can provide.

The opioid drug crisis has been a high concern for years now. Of the designated drug types for intakes received last year, 18 percent was due to opiates. That is down 11 percent from the year before in 2017, in which 29 percent of drug type intakes received were opiates.

Knight expressed, “this is difficult work. … We are working hard and doing a better job of reunifying children quicker.”