By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Voters responded to the increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect in Wood County by passing the 1.3-mill renewal levy for Human Services on Tuesday.
The Wood County Human Services levy passed with nearly 68 percent of the votes (19,126 to 9,151.)
That wide margin of approval was welcome news to Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services.
“I think that people understand that child protection and protection of the elderly is very important,” Carsey said.
“Wood County has always been very supportive,” she added.
Since the levy was last passed 10 years ago, Wood County has seen six deaths of children under 3 years old due to abuse. Five suffered from head trauma, and one was smothered.
There are no plans to use the levy funding to add staff. A pressing need is to provide safe placements for children removed from their homes. “The number of kids in care has gone up drastically,” Carsey said.
Wood County is on its way to setting a record for 2017, as the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases continue to grow.
Since 1987, the Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services portions of the agency have relied on the 1.3 mills to support their work. The 10-year levy generates $3.7 million a year, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $36 a year.
The funding provides for child abuse and neglect investigations and, if needed, placement of children in foster homes or other settings. The levy also supports elder services, such as home health aides, homemaker services and investigations of elder abuse and neglect.
The needs of the protective services at both ends of the age spectrum continue to increase. Following are the statistics for 2016:
- 894 child abuse investigations.
- 260 elder abuse investigations.
- 212 of the child abuse investigations involved drugs.
- 142 of the investigations were child sexual abuse investigations.
- 59 children were placed in substitute care such as foster care or group homes.
And the numbers look even worse for 2017. The reasons may be two-fold, Carsey said. In recent years, the opiate crisis has led to more cases, and there has been a real push for the public to report abuse and neglect concerns.
“Last year in September, we had 35 children in foster care. This year we have 50,” Carsey said, adding that her office is currently trying to recruit more foster families. Meanwhile, the number of elder abuse and neglect cases is expected to pass 300 this year, she added.
“We appreciate the county’s support,” Carsey said.