About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, August 19, 2016

NorCo Coping With Record Number of Child Abuse Reports

Kevin Dolan is a long distance runner. After being diagnosed with a weak heart many years, he hit the pavement and even began entering local races. He never wins. But he understands that the real victory is in the effort. He has applied that same effort for the past 42 years in one of government's most vital roles - helping children in crisis. He is Director of Northampton County's Children, Youth and Families (CYF) division, where he oversees a 125-person staff with a $32 million budget. Unfortunately, he's very busy. He provided a glimpse into his world at Council's August 18 meeting.

Among other things, The Jerry Sandusky scandal resulted in 23 new child abuse laws. These require professionals to report any suspicion of abuse, even if they just hear about it. Failure to do so is a felony. So Dolan's office has been deluged with a record number of calls, and is on track to receive 6,000 complaints this year, when the average is closer to 4,000. Though most calls turn out to be unfounded or minor, Dolan noted that it "has caught some of those serious cases that we might not have seen before."

Like a three-week old baby who is murdered. Or nine-month old toddler who is strangled and hit on the head.

Dolan told Council that the heroin and opioid epidemic is also having a big impact on his office. It is "so prevalent in the County, and in places we've never, ever been." He said even people with higher incomes "can't keep up with payments" for ten bags of heroin a day, and ignoring their children. "That is keeping us running full tilt," he said.

He told Council that caseworkers are placed in "very dangerous" situations when responding to drug users because the stability of the parent is an unknown. He mentioned one recent case involving a parent who had been smoking meth for 30 days straight. A Hazmat team had to be called because the smoke leeches into everything. Dolan's caseworkers had to be detoxed and a local hospital burned the clothing they were wearing and sent them home in scrubs.

Acknowledging that being a caseworker is stressful, Dolan indicated that most of them burn out after two years. He currently has six vacancies.

Though his office is busier than it's ever been, Dolan indicated that he has relatively few children - 248 - in placement right now. That costs about $17,000 per day. Some children with special needs, like an adolescent who was routinely swallowing flashlight batteries, must be watched 24 hours per day.

Though the number of children in placement is relatively low, he said that can change in a heartbeat. One recent weekend drug sweep resulted in 14 placements. "Every time you hear of drug sweep, ask yourself how many kids are in those homes," he suggested.

There are two reasons for the decrease in placements, Dolan claimed. One of these is a new practice called family group decision making, in which the entire family is challenged to come up with a plan under which they will get their children back. “If you make the plan you're more willing to follow it," he observed. The other is a concept called prudent parenting, which gives foster parents more flexibility in what children can do. At one time, a child who wanted to play soccer or go to the beach needed court permission. Foster parents can now make those decisions themselves.

About 90% of the cost of CYF is paid by the state.

And just like volunteer coaches, Dolan and his staff must go extensive background checks every two years.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kevin and his staff are unsung heroes of the county. They have a thankless job. CYF caseworkers see the horrors of child abuse on a nearly daily basis, and have to face threats from dysfunctional parents. I hope that at the end of Kevin's presentation, at least one member of council thanked him and his staff for their dedication and importance to the fabric of our society.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He was not thanked, but I'm sure Council appreciated him very much.

Anonymous said...

I remember being told about this child abuse issue years ago by a former county council, Ron Heckman. He had told me he worked for Kevin as an abuse caseworker when Dolan was in charge of first child abuse unit in the late seventies. I remember him telling me that the child abuse work really drained people.

I can only imagine how difficult it has been for Mr.Dolan. Do you think anyone on county council even understands the toll?

Anonymous said...

It takes a very special kind of person.
Thank you, Kevin.

Anonymous said...

I have had the pleasure meeting Kevin at the annual 5k for Children and Youth. He's such an amazing person and it's very accurate that the job must be so draining each and every day. I cannot even imagine what the case workers see and how much of that they bring home with them. A great big thank you to these individuals!

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
All the while one town to the west Cps helps in this reprehensible crimes carried out upon children by the actor only resulting in one more insurable peril of STATE law never ever to touch the core of the issue only a ride on a merrygoround!?

Anonymous said...

Don't all these people make a good salary, with great benefits and healthcare for life? Public sector isn't all bad.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But that's the image you want to present. The horror of seeing what you want swept under the riug is precisely why the turnover is sohigh. Starting salary is fairly low for a college grad, well below a starting salary in private business. Benefits are better.

Anonymous said...

Don't these people have unions? I thought you claimed these unions created bad things for people in the private sector. How much must the taxpayer bear?

Gary W. Gorman said...

Gary W. Gorman responds to 2:42pm:

Make a good salary? No

Great Benefits? Above-average benefits

Healthcare for life? Absolutely not. Perhaps those who worked and retired in the 1970's had that as a benefit when medical benefits were relatively inexpensive, but that stopped a LONG time ago. Paul Carpenter of the Morning Call finally gave up his Rhetoric and list of lies/half truths...perhaps you might want to do the same.

Anonymous said...

If council did not even express a simple thank you to Kevin and his division then they are useless slugs. Disgraceful!!

Tiffany said...

No. Do you have any clue what the salary is? Try doing the job once then you will eat your words.

Gary W. Gorman said...

Tiffany: Was your comment to me or 2:42pm? If it was to me...I'd suggest doing some homework first.

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:19, I was bothered enough by this that I went back and checked. At the end of Dolan's remarks, Bob Werner said, "We appreciate what you do. We really do. I have a lot of respect for your 125 people out there." Though he did not say "thank you," I think it is quite clear that he was very grateful for Dolan and his staff.

Anonymous said...

That was nice. But it should have been reflected by that scrub Cusick.

Anonymous said...

Oh spare me the guys said thanks. What are they supposed to do, kiss his ass? Just another dig at Republicans by liberals.

Anonymous said...

8:06 is a bitter right wing clown. A simple expression of appreciation by council president is not kissing ass. It is simple respect and good manners. Go back to watching Duck Dynasty asshole.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think it's pretty sad how one person is anonymously smearing Council while another does it to CYF. Grow up. I am by no means a Cusick fan, but this presentation was not made to him, but a Council committee chaired by Matt Dietz. I have quoted what Bob Werner said, and he spoke for everyone. Matt Dietz is very new, and has never held elective office. I will find plenty of reasons to criticize him, but this is not one of them. Kevin was treated with courtesy and respect by a council that appreciated what his department does.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:28, The IRS will call you.