Despite outreach, too many threats to children remain

Posted on July 6, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Updated

Guilford County seal

GUILFORD COUNTY — Kimberly Herzing said she and her fellow advocates for child welfare have made progress addressing the plight faced by boys and girls in Guilford County, yet the numbers remain sobering.

Herzing is chairwoman of the Community Child Protection Team in Guilford County, a group made up of social workers, criminal justice and legal professionals, nonprofit advocates and health care providers. On Friday, the team released its latest review of its efforts and findings, and the details in the report offer a reminder of the threats faced by too many children.

Here are some examples:

• In Guilford County, 80 children died in 2016, the most recent year in which detailed figures have been researched. Most boys and girls died from birth defects and medical conditions, but 11 died from abuse or neglect, five from an unsafe sleeping environment, three from suicide and one from homicide. Of the 80 child deaths, 52 were children under 1.

• Two years ago, the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services received 5,171 child protective services reports involving the alleged maltreatment of more than 10,000 children.

• On a given day, the average number of children in foster care in Guilford County is 546 boys and girls. Neglect is the reason that 93 percent of children in the county enter the foster care system. The majority of the reported neglect cases relate to parents or guardians with substance abuse or mental health issues or children caught in a household disrupted by domestic violence.

Herzing told The High Point Enterprise that she and her colleagues take a range to steps to address the welfare of children. The county child protection team, in collaboration with the Child Fatality Prevention Team, reaches out to educate parents, promote the reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect and seeks more resources for mental health treatment and access to health care.

In High Point, Herzing said the opening in the coming months of the Family Justice Center in the downtown courthouse will make a difference with child welfare in the city.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners earlier this year unanimously voted to open a High Point branch of the center, which has been in Greensboro. The High Point Family Justice Center will operate out of vacant clerk of court office space that’s being renovated now.

The city’s Family Justice Center will offer one location for High Pointers — including parents with children — to seek services when fleeing domestic violence or other abusive situations.

“It will be huge for High Point,” said Herzing, a licensed social worker in clinical services with Guilford County.

Though addressing child welfare in Guilford County can seem daunting, Herzing said individuals can make a difference, even if it’s intervening in the trajectory of the life of one boy or girl.

“Everybody can do a part,” she told The Enterprise. “We know that when we interview kids who were in foster care or grew up in an unstable home, it was that one adult — whether it was a teacher or a coach or a foster parent or neighbor — who made an impact and may never had known it.”

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

Posted on July 6, 2018 at 2:50 pm