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Child protective services underfunded, study says

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Every other week, a child in North Carolina is killed by his or her caregiver, in part due to a child-protective-services system that is underfunded, a new report says.

The Child Protective Services Data Card, developed by the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute in Raleigh, presents county-by-county and statewide data on government efforts to stem child abuse and neglect.

Annually, almost 6 percent of the state’s children under age 18 are investigated for abuse or neglect, the report says, and in 2003, 8.2 percent suffered repeated maltreatment within a six-month period.

The problem is estimated to cost the U.S. $1.6 billion in health-care-related costs and $6.7 billion in costs to care for children outside their homes.

North Carolina’s child-protective-services system has met the standards set by the state, the report says, but falls short of federal guidelines and has the lowest rate in the U.S. for substantiating physical child abuse.

Average salaries for child protective workers are low, just over $22,000 a year in lowest-paid Hyde County, and turnover is a problem, even in counties with higher salaries, the report says.

The report also notes the state’s lack of a statewide child-protective-services data system, which means that relevant agencies, including social services department, schools, courts and Guardian ad Litem programs are unable to share critical data.

To combat these problems, the Child Advocacy Institute recommends full funding by state lawmakers of a statewide data system, increasing funding for recruiting and retaining workers, reducing workers’ caseloads and improving training.

The Institute also recommends additional funding and training for foster parents and adoptive parents.

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