CHATHAM COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - For the past few weeks, WTOC has brought you stories from our national investigative unit about child abuse and neglect, and major holes in the system. We spoke with the DFACS director to find out that Chatham County will soon get more help for the Child Protective Services unit, to increase their staff by 50 percent.
Eighteen staff members in the Department of Family and Children Services take care of 30-40 cases each on a monthly rolling basis. The national average for the 42 states with reportable data is 6.7 cases a month per employee. Chatham County DFACS Director Shawn Brown says his department works daily to evaluate tips, and they stick to hard deadlines to respond to potential cases.
“If there’s present danger, it can be an immediate, which we can be there in a couple hours, for those that don’t have immediate sign of danger, but there may be an allegation of maltreatment we have up to 72 hours,” Brown said.
In 2017, Chatham County Child Protective Services investigated 1200 allegations of child abuse or neglect leading to 83 substantiated claims. I asked Brown if he feels like the division has enough people to investigate every single tip.
“No, I don’t think that there’s ever enough resources. I think more resources need to be developed, especially for our special needs children,” said Brown.
The regional budget was increased, and Chatham County was flagged to add nine more staff members with a goal to reduce the case load size, which is far above the national average.
“There may be the perception of enough. Our perspective is, there can always be more, there can always be better,” Brown said.
If you suspect a child or teen you interact with could be dealing with abuse, the office says, report it.
“Err on the side of caution. That’s why were here. If we don’t know, we don’t have an opportunity to do anything about it,” said Brown.
There are more resources and a free self-guided training online to learn more about how you can become more aware, and report child abuse. You can find it here.