The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Child Protection Team Highlights Needs

 

February 28, 2019



The shortage of inpatient psychiatric-treatment beds, the need to protect LGBTQ youth and the limited access for residents to effective early intervention programs were among the findings of a report by the Transylvania County Community Child Protection Team (CCPT).

Kenny McAbee, the CCPT chairman, presented the group’s report for 2017 and 2018 during the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday.

The CCPT’s purpose is to assess selected cases, in which children are being served by Child Protective Services, and to develop a community-wide approach to child abuse and neglect; understand causes of childhood deaths; identify gaps or deficiencies in the delivery of services by public agencies designed to prevent abuse, neglect and death; and make and implement recommendations for laws, rules and policies that will support the safe and healthy development of children and prevent future child abuse, neglect and death.

The CCPT is made up representatives of public and private community agencies that provide services to children and their families, including the Department of Social Services (DSS), Health Department, law enforcement, Guardian Ad Litem and the school system.

In 2017, the CCPT reviewed two deaths of children who resided in Transylvania County at the time of their deaths and one child who was in foster care and resided in Rutherford County. One child drowned, one infant was still born and a teenager committed suicide while in foster care.

The team identified the following recommendations for prevention efforts: more public awareness and safety around safe swimming and open water; prenatal education for mothers, including teen moms, on how substance abuse impacts newborn children; and more foster parent training centered on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) children and their placement.

In 2017, the CCPT reviewed four cases of maltreatment. Common themes among those cases were the need for improved access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for adolescents and parents; and more collaboration with DSS, the school system and the Department of Juvenile Justice surrounding truancy issues.

In 2018, the CCPT, along with the State Fatality Reviewer, reviewed one death that occurred in 2016 with a teenage child who resided in Rutherford County but was in the custody of the local DSS.

In 2018, the CCPT reviewed five cases of maltreatment. Common themes among those cases were the continued need for improved access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for both adolescents and parents, and truancy issues across all county schools.

The following are CCPT’s findings and recommendations:

•Finding 1: There is a significant shortage of inpatient psychiatric-treatment beds across the state, creating a burden on law enforcement agencies, social services, emergency rooms and the criminal justice system, which lack the training and resources to deal with individual’s psychiatric care. Without access to inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities, mental-health professionals are forced to triage the most acutely ill individuals and not all patients are receiving the level of care deemed most appropriate for them in a timely manner.

Recommendation: The N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services and the N.C. Division of Medical Assistance should consider expanding residential treatment services for adolescents and adults statewide to sufficiently meet the demand for intensive mental health services.

•Finding 2: LGBTQ youth in foster care have the right to safe and accepting environments.

Recommendations: The DSS and CCPT should consider creating a task force to study the needs of the LGBTQ community, locally. The task force should explore strategies for enhancing public education, outreach and advocacy, and support LGBTQ competent suicide prevention services within the community. The N.C. Division of Social Services should consider developing a training curriculum for child welfare practitioners, licensed or otherwise approved caretakers, and other professionals working with LGBTQ youth in foster care. At a minimum, the goals of training should be inclusion and LGBTQ competency and should focus on building affirming and supportive environments for youth and helping develop ways to alleviate issues arising from prejudice, bias and/or discrimination.

•Finding 3: Transylvania County residents have limited access to effective early intervention programs. Increased access to early intervention services could improve the health and well-being of children and parents within the community.

Recommendations: Unit-ed Way and Smart Start of Transylvania County should explore implementation of an evidence-based, trauma-informed home visiting program for pregnant women and first-time parents in an effort to promote positive parenting techniques and help parents build positive and healthy attachments with their children. The state legislature should consider increasing funding for preventative services across the state and particularly in rural communities.

•Finding 4: Therapeutic foster care (TFC), a residential intervention for youth with emotional or behavioral problems, is a community-based program. However, not all TFC providers deliver an evidence-based or best practice model of this service.

Recommendation: In an effort to improve practices across a wide range of TFC agencies, the N.C. Division of Social Services should consider enhanced standards of care for TFC licensure, informed by practice and research. The division should specifically consider strengthening guidelines for supervision, safety and crisis planning.

In other action at the meeting:

•Commissioners approved the interlocal agreement between commissioners and the Board of Education for the administration of the school bond projects. In a January meeting, the two bodies met to hear about state laws that govern such agreements and the different ways boards have collaborated on large education capital im-provements.

According to County Manager Jaime Laughter, the school board initially proposed an agreement that school system staff be solely in charge of administering the construction projections while using an advisory committee made up of school and county government officials. The agreement has been modified primarily to articulate the school system’s responsibility in managing the contracting and project administration duties under that responsibility. It also provides for the documentation necessary for the county to meet state law requirements as the financial agent to process the bond sale and then turn over the funds.

Commissioners Jason Chappell and Mike Hawkins will be the two county representatives on the School Bond Construction Committee, which will also include two school board members, two county schools employees and the school system’s finance officer.

•Karen Gorman, the C.A.R.E. Coalition project director, gave an update on the group’s work. The coalition’s focus is on underage drinking and substance abuse. The coalition was founded in 2010 and received federal funding in 2014. Substance abuse is the top health concern in the county, according to Gorman. She said that between 2012 and 2016 delinquency, school crimes and drug possession were greatly reduced. According to high school students, there is more difficulty in getting drugs. She noted the impact of medical locked boxes and drug take-back initiatives. Despite the increase of opioid overdosing in the state, Transylvania County has shown a significant decrease, Gorman said. The coalition, she said, has received regional and national recognition for its programs. The coalition’s youth group meets weekly and has grown from two members to 20 and has benefited from leadership training. In grants, the coalition has been awarded roughly $975,000 in federal funding since 2014 and almost $100,000 in state and local funding. Local match and in-kind contributions amount to almost $100,000 annually.

•Elsa Watts with Martin Starnes & Associates presented an overview of the county’s 2017-2018 fiscal year financial report. The audit highlights included the county’s general fund revenues increasing from $50,016,815 in 2017 to $50,447,194 in 2018 and expenditures decreasing from $46,724,623 in 2017 to $46,544,131 in 2018.

The total fund balance in the general fund was $26,592,224 by the end of 2018, a decrease of $848,056. The total fund balance is at 20 percent of the general fund, with the decrease coming from, among others things, funding the construction of the Ecusta Road industrial project.

The county’s available fund balance in 2018 was $22,745,348, a decrease of roughly $1.2 million from 2017. The difference between the total fund balance and the available fund balance is calculated by subtracting non-spendable items ($37,238) and those restricted by state law ($3,809,638). Of the roughly $26.5 million total fund balance in 2018, roughly $5.4 million (10.6 percent) is unassigned. Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins asked if the audit was “clean” and “unmodified” and that the auditors found “no issues.” Watts agreed and said the only “finding” was the turnover in the county’s financial department, including the retirement of long-time finance director Gay Poor. Hawkins also asked whether the county’s revenues, including the 59 percent that comes from property taxes, was typical for a small county. Watts suggested the property tax percentage was typical.

•Commissioners will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the county’s Watershed Protection Ordinance. The current ordinance was adopted in 1993 and updated in 1997.

•Bart Renner, with the Cooperative Extension office, gave a six-month update on his department’s accomplishments, which include managing over 200 volunteers through Master Gardeners and 4-H, who dedicated over 3,000 hours to educational programs; providing over $15,000 in additional revenue to cattle farmers through the Mountain Cattle Alliance; and contributing to increased sales at the Farmers’ Market.

Renner said his office would like to continue partnering with AmeriCorps and would like county funding to hire a SHIIP (Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program) director in partnership with Henderson County. Elaine Deppe, who was recently named the state’s top SHIIP coordinator, is stepping down from her position. On average, Renner said, county residents are saving about $200,000 a year thanks to the SHIIP consultations. Deppe was being paid about $333 a month, thanks to grants. The director’s position would require a $30,000 salary including benefits. Renner’s office will make a formal request for the funding during the upcoming budget process.

•Commissioners approved contracting with Martin Starnes & Associates for auditing services for $65,000.

•In her manager’s report, Laughter said the county received a $15,000 grant from the WNC Community Foundation to add a hearing loop in the commissioners meeting room and a $10,000 grant from the Tourism Development Authority to help with river clean-up projects

 
 

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