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MILFORD—The Caroline Department of Social Services (DSS) came before the Board of Supervisors during the Oct. 8 meeting to ask for two things: funds to reconfigure the front desk of the department for improved security and funding to hire two additional social workers positions.
The board was quick to approve the reconfiguration of the front desk with Plexiglas for additional security. The board agreed with the department that it was a necessary investment, so there was no discussion on the topic.
Supervisor Jeff Sili made a motion to approve the request to hire two additional DSS staff members. Supervisor Jeff Black seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
DSS representatives said the two additional positions are needed within family services and family benefits. The acting director for the department told the board that the number of cases referred to them has been increasing for around six years. The department is currently handling 275 to 300 cases, with an expectation of more to come.
The system used for the family benefits programs was described by representatives as “very non-user friendly,” and that there is simply not enough current staff to help applicants through the process. The representatives say that they are currently up-to-date on child protective services (CPS) cases, but that they will not be able to continue to be up-to-date with their current number of staff.
Child abuse cases that involve substance abuse, burns, bruises, being chocked and hit, are becoming more prevalent, according to representatives. The current staff is stressed, and supervisors are having to take on caseloads themselves, rather than checking the work of social workers. None of the employees are taking much of their vacation time because of their commitment to keeping their work up to date.
The department asked the state for advice, and it has been recommended that staff numbers be at 35, which would require the hiring of 14 additional staff members. The department reiterated that they are not asking for that many at this time, they are only asking for 2 additional staff members.
DSS representatives said that as Caroline County continues to grow, so will the number of calls and referrals to cases for the department. The Child Welfare League of America recommends that a CPS worker not take on more than 12 cases at a time. The CPS staff in Caroline currently work an average of 21 cases.
Supervisor Wayne Acors expressed concern that the information presented sounded like Caroline County had more cases of child abuse and neglect than surrounding counties, and asked if this was true. The representatives responded that no, Caroline was no worse than surrounding counties.
In other activity, the Board of Supervisors had the first reading for the proposed amendment of section 108-10 of the code of Caroline County (traffic and vehicles) to prohibit panhandling. There have been increased concerns about the panhandling in Caroline, particularly in the Carmel Church area.
The Caroline County Planning Commission originally favored making it illegal to solicit, or attempt to sell anything to an individual in an occupied vehicle, except in cases of charitable organizations such as Boy Scouts. Due to complications in this process, the commission decided there were three options for handling this issue: to not do anything; to ban panhandling entirely; or to implement a permitting system for such organizations, and to give tickets to those without permits who found to be panhandling, which was their recommendation.
Supervisor Chairman Floyd Thomas asked Major Scott Moser of the Caroline County Sheriffs Office (CCSO) how easy he believed this would be to enforce. Moser responded that he believed enforcing this would be “fairly easy and simple to enforce,” given that the CCSO already go through the areas with panhandling problems, and respond to those same calls. This way, he explained, they would actually be able to give offenders a ticket, similar to a traffic violation, and if the offense continued to occur by that individual, they would consequently be incarcerated.
Acors said that he “liked the idea,” and stated that several members of the Ladysmith district, who had concerns about panhandling in the area, had approached him. Acors stated that this “does harm to the image of the county.”
Moser stated that the CCSO had met with the commonwealth’s attorney office, and that this was the best suggestion on how to deal with the problem. He further stated that they were working with Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer on dealing with the issue. The board agreed to revisit this issue during a future meeting.
In other business, the board had a first reading of proposed amendments to chapter 56 of the code of Caroline County (hunting). The proposed amendment would allow for the use of rifles for the hunting of deer, coyotes, wild hawks, and black bears.
Rifle hunting, if allowed, could be used to help control the overpopulation of deer and dangerous predators. Rifles would not be allowed with hunting dogs for safety reasons. This amendment would mirror similar hunting laws in surrounding counties, and would not be effective until next year.
The type of rifle allowed in this amendment is typically a bolt-action rifle. Thomas seemed to be in favor of the proposal, saying that the board would “pursue this mater.” After getting input from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Board of Supervisors will move forward with this proposed amendment.