ELIZABETHTOWN — Child-abuse and -neglect cases in Essex County went from 51 in 2013 to 120 in 2015.
And child-support dockets increased from 562 in 2014 to 593 last year.
Eighty-five to 90 percent of those soaring numbers are due to drug and alcohol addiction, County Attorney Daniel Manning III said.
One result of that is the need for a second full-time attorney to handle Social Services cases, he told the Essex County Board of Supervisors at a Ways and Means Committee on Monday.
Manning said that when a Social Services attorney retired two years ago, part-time lawyer David Scaglione went to full time, and the other Social Services counsel, Carl Rubino Jr., stayed at part time.
That eliminated a part-time job to save money.
“Right now, we have one and one-half Social Services attorneys,” Manning explained. “The workload is much more than I anticipated.”
The Social Services lawyers are deputy county attorneys who work under Manning’s supervision.
The new Social Services attorney would be paid $50,000 to $55,000 a year, plus benefits, for a total of $90,000. After a 58 percent state reimbursement, the county share would be $37,800.
“I think I can come up with it in our current budget," said County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O'Neill. "It is a major expense.”
The commissioner said property liens, fraud recoveries and aid repayments could be used to pay for the new hire.
“We had a dramatic increase in foster-care children to place, increase in fraud investigations,” O'Neill said in explaining to the Board of Supervisors the need for the additional lawyer.
“Our current attorney is very competent; we’re concerned about burnout.”
Scaglione is the full-time Social Services attorney for child support, abuse, neglect and foster-care cases, while Rubino works part time on juvenile-delinquency and child-guardianship cases.
PREPARING ON SUNDAYS
“David is stretched very thinly,” Manning said.
He said Scaglione is doing child-support cases in County Family Court every Monday, about 30 at a time, and is working Sundays to prepare.
Several supervisors said they would support bringing aboard another Social Services attorney.
“When Dan (Manning) says he needs help, I think it’s pretty important,” Supervisor Stephen McNally (D-Minerva) said. “I’d go along with Dan’s recommendation.”
Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington), who chairs Ways and Means, said the County Salary Subcommittee will call a meeting, consider the proposal and make a recommendation to the full board on the matter.
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