Mecklenburg’s protection of children to be reviewed

Mecklenburg DSS Director Peggy Eagan
Mecklenburg DSS Director Peggy Eagan jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg County is one of 10 counties taking part in a federal review that will assess North Carolina’s ability to protect vulnerable children.

Charles Bradley, director of Youth and Family Services, will update Mecklenburg commissioners Thursday on the county’s preparation for the review.

The board will take no action but, because of problems with previous reviews, “we want to be proactive in keeping them informed on the new review,” said Deputy County Manager Chris Peek.

Thursday’s meeting was postponed from Tuesday because of inclement weather.

After a 2007 review, the state had to pay a $1million fine to the federal Administration for Children and Families for not meeting performance benchmarks. That review and others by the state have found numerous deficiencies in Mecklenburg’s YFS over the years.

The new review will start in April and run through September, Bradley said.

Each county, he said, will submit 27 randomly selected cases based on specific criteria of the federal review. “They’ll review these cases from the 10 counties and send the results to the state,” he said. “We know the bar will be set high again. To date, there hasn’t been any state that has passed this federal review.”

This time, Bradley and his boss, Department of Social Services Director Peggy Eagan, believe Mecklenburg’s YFS will show progress.

“Whether we will pass the review, it’s too early to tell,” said Eagan, who took over the department long after the last review. “But I am optimistic that we will show significant improvement.”

New screening goal unmet

The board will also hear a report from Health Director Marcus Plescia about how the county has not met new targets for breast and cervical cancer screenings and may lose some federal money for the program.

In the past, the state has given Mecklenburg enough money to screen 950 uninsured women between the ages of 40 and 64, but in 2011 the money and screenings were nearly doubled, Plescia said.

The county hasn’t been able to meet that new target of more than 1,900 women, he said.

“For whatever reason there’s just not a lot of community awareness about the availability of this program,” he said. “We were hitting the 900-people target fine. But we’ve not been able to step up the program to meet the new numbers.”

Thursday, he will unveil a new strategy to increase the number of women taking advantage of the free screenings.

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