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Social Services Agencies Investigate Thousands Of Child Abuse And Neglect Cases

a boy hiding his face
Suzanne Tucker
Courtesy of the Children's Home Society of North Carolina

Social Services agencies in North Carolina investigated more than 121,000 cases of child abuse and neglect across the state over the past year. That's according to data from the School of Social Work at UNC Chapel Hill.Matt Anderson, of the Children's Home Society, said these families are often reacting to serious stress and lack healthy coping skills.

“Often we parent based on the parenting that we received, and so if that wasn't the best parenting, we may not be the best parents,” Anderson said. “But we can learn new strategies, new techniques, new ways to parent successfully and that's the kind of thing that we need to do as a community, as a society, to help these families.”

Anderson also says consistently high numbers don't always mean children need to be removed from the home, and could indicate that many of the parents need assistance.

“Many of these parents are dealing with undiagnosed, untreated mental health issues, substance abuse, they're living in deep poverty, they're going through marital challenges,” Anderson said. “There are a number of circumstances often times that are combined together in more than just one issue that puts parents under a lot of stress and that will impact their ability to parent.”

Anderson and his organization are working with the state Department of Social Services to administer a family preservation program. He says it helps parents cope in healthy ways and find social supports.

“That program is really effective, and we see over 90 percent of those families actually staying together,” he said. “We're able to prevent those kids coming into foster care, which is the goal that we want to have happen when we get involved at that point in time.”

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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