YORK -- Children slip through the cracks every day, the Department of Social Services is charged with catching them and working to plug the holes.
Tomorrow marks the kick-off event for National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in York County. Officials with DSS, York, Clover, Rock Hill, York County government and local social services like York Place and Keystone will gather on the York County Courthouse steps at 12:30 p.m. for a series of short speeches and proclamations to mark the occasion.
"We want the community to be aware of this problem," DSS Program Coordinator, Lynn Wallace said.
Blue ribbons are the chosen symbol for the month. DSS employees began decorating downtown York with ribbons and balloons Tuesday for the event. Tomorrow shoes of varying sizes will be placed along the courthouse steps to represent the children 0-18 DSS and foster care programs help each year. Approximately 120 children across York County enter the foster care program each year, according to Joacqunia Golden, a Foster Care Home License Recruiter.
Of those cases around 21 percent originate in the Clover School District, and another 13-15 percent are from the York School district. There are a total of 63 licensed foster care homes in the entire county. Of that 22 percent are in Clover, and only eight percent are in York.
"We lose about as many foster care homes as we add each year," Wallace said. "But with a lot of those the people adopt their foster child and close their home, so they are good outcomes."
DSS provides in-home treatment to nearly 500 children and families each month in the county. It also investigate around 90 reports of abuse or neglect each month.
"Our main goal is reunification," Wallace said. "We work with the families as much as we can."
But when reunification is not an option, foster parents come into play, and the department is always searching for more families willing to open their homes to children in need, Kim Love, Foster Home Licensing Supervisor, said.
Cases of abuse can range from physical neglect - including food, shelter, medical needs, education and drug and alcohol abuse - to physical, mental and/or sexual abuse.
"We investigate more physical neglect cases than anything else," Wallace said.
In addition to needing more foster parents, DSS has other ways for people to get involved, including the Guardian Ad Litem program. The department also runs toy drives around Christmas that can always use more volunteers.
"When people contact us we look at where their strengths are and try to put them in the best fit," Wallace said.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should contact Golden at 684-8146, 803-487-7798 or firstname.lastname@example.org.