Children exposed to more crime at home, county official warns

QUEENSBURY - With the economy spiraling downward and drug arrests rising in the region, the Warren County Department of Social Services is experiencing a sharp increase in child protective services cases, officials said this week.

"We are not only seeing an increase in the sheer number of reports but also in severity," county Social Services Commissioner Sheila Weaver said Friday. "In my opinion, I think it has a lot to do with the economy."

According to county documents, in 2003 the county child abuse hotline received 1,070 calls. Year-to-date, there have been 1,222 reports.

Also, the number of cases that are sent to family court are up significantly as well. In 2003, the department of social services filed 44 petitions to county family court. In 2007, this number was up to 57 and at present 2008 has seen 72 filings, officials said this week.

"We are seeing a lot more crack-cocaine and heroin related incidents where there are children at the premises when the officers arrive," social services case worker Emily Kladis told county supervisors. "The Sheriff's Department drug task-force has been very successful in finding people with hard drugs - sadly there are often kids present."

This trend is holding true state-wide at a time where municipalities are looking to slash expenditures, often with a reduction in social services funding. For instance, in 2006 Westchester County responded to 5,939 reports, up 17 percent from 5,080 the year prior. This increase continued to a staggering high of 6,200 reports by the end of 2007 and Westchester County expects 6,800 reports in 2008, the New York Times reported.

Weaver predicted an even-greater increase in the region, as drugs continue to infiltrate the area and the economic recession drags on.

"People are struggling and using drugs - when this happens children are often involved," Weaver said.

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