ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill says most child-abuse complaints are unfounded, but their Child Protective Services unit investigates every one thoroughly.
The inquiries that do turn into something have saved many children, O’Neill told county lawmakers recently.
The members of the Child Protective Services unit were lauded by the County Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee at a recent ceremony in the Old County Courthouse.
The commissioner told lawmakers they have a statewide confidential abuse and neglect hotline at (800) 342-3720.
“That’s the only authority that allows Child Protective Services to check on a family,” he said. “We can’t do that. Once they have that, they (CPS) can do a thorough investigation.”
He cautioned supervisors that abuse reports are often found to be false when probed.
“Only a small percentage of the hundreds of allegations we receive each year are proven. Because a call was taken by the hotline, that doesn’t mean the evidence is there.
“Very few result in a child being removed from the home.”
Abuse occurs at all levels of society, O’Neill said.
“It’s very challenging work done by CPS. Because abuse is so traumatizing to children and families, we dedicate (time) to recognizing resources and efforts to prevent neglect and child abuse.”
Social Services Director of Services Sue Ann Caron told supervisors that the cost of child abuse is $112 billion nationwide annually.
“The impact on the victims is extensive and lifelong. It impacts not only the health and well-being of the victims but child (related) budgets across the nation.
“Many of these (abused) children grow up to lead productive and useful lives. These are the fortunate ones.”
Caron said they wanted to recognize everyone who works with children, and many agencies were present in the audience at the Old County Courthouse.