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DSS to approach parents first in child neglect cases

The Lincoln County Department of Social Services (DSS) now has a more up front approach to dealing with child neglect cases.
The DSS switched to a Multiple Response System in the beginning of April.
“We’re just very pleased that we have started the process,” said Susan McCracken, director of the DSS. “We’re pleased that families are feeling better about us.”
The new system has social workers first contacting parents after neglect has been reported. The more traditional system had children being the first ones contacted.
“Families are finding this trend to be friendlier,” said McCracken. “It feels better that the parents are talked to first.”
Social workers then talk to children in the presence of their parents.
“I have not heard any problems with kids talking at this point,” said Tony Carpenter, investigation supervisor of child protection services.
Social workers still have the option of talking to children one on one if they find it necessary.
Prior to becoming a Multiple Response System, social workers first approached children in school without their parents knowledge.
This will continue to be the case for the most severe forms of child abuse such as sexual and physical abuse.
For less severe cases, however, everything will be dealt with up front and with the parent’s knowledge.
“It will put them more in a place they need to be,” said Carpenter. “It gets them very involved.”
Family members will also hear what information the DSS has collected after the investigation begins.
The initial reporters of abuse, however, will not be identified.
“That seems to be the biggest concern in the community,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter believes this is the most radical change that has occurred in his 11 years working at the DSS.
“The old way’s been done for years and years,” said Carpenter. “It’s kind of what you get used to.”
The DSS has been working to educate both staff and community members on the new system.
They have dealt with community agencies, judges, hospital staff and the school system.
“There’s a lot of folks we need to get to,” said Carpenter.
The school system alone requires training of approximately 1600 employees.
The DSS wants to make sure to keep teachers involved in child abuse prevention.
“They’re very much our partners in this,” said McCracken. “They often spend more time with the children than parents do.”by Sarah Grano

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