There are currently 100 children in the care of Stokes County Department of Social Services, a 48 percent increase since 2013, according to DSS Director Stacey Elmes. In 2016, 61 percent of children removed from homes were a result of drug activity and in 2017, the number jumped to 79 percent.
March is Social Worker Appreciation month and Elmes said the social workers in Stokes County go above and beyond.
“It’s a difficult job and many people don’t realize what they see and deal with on a daily basis. I have so much gratitude for all they do.”
A difficult part of the job is removing a child from their home, but it’s always the last resort, Elmes said.
“All efforts are made to keep children in the home with their parents or family members. If a child has to be removed, efforts are made to find relatives to care for them and they try to keep siblings together if at all possible,” added local social worker Beth Berry.
Reunification efforts begin immediately to try to return children to their home, Berry explained.
“Counseling is made available and visits with family begin as soon as possible. There’s a real need for foster homes in Stokes County,” she said.
In addition to child protective services, 30 elderly residents are in the care of the county’s department of social services.
Stokes is equipped with 31 social workers and there are two open positions in foster care, which require the minimum of a four-year degree.
“Some of the biggest challenges social workers face are secondary trauma stress, which results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another person. This often leads to professional burnout. Safety is also a concern, as well as drug use and mental health issues of clients,” Berry said.
“Our social workers advocate for children and the elderly,” she added. “It’s often a challenging job but rewarding as well. If you come in contact with one of the social workers, thank them for what they do.”
For more information about Stokes County’s Department of Social Services, visit http://www.co.stokes.nc.us/dss/.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.