Commissioners proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention Month

March 29, 2024

Richland County Children Services Executive Director Nikki Harless is joined by commissioners (from left) Darrell Banks, Tony Vero and Cliff Mears on Thursday morning. (RCCS photo)


 Commissioners issued the annual proclamation during a meeting with Richland County Children Services Executive Director Nikki Harless.

“I just want the community to know, the best way to help us prevent child abuse and neglect is to report it to the agency,” she said.

“We’re available 24/7 to take the information that people have and if they don’t feel comfortable leaving their name, they can report anonymously. We had 84 people last year report their concerns anonymously, so that’s not a problem,” she said.

Harless said the agency took 2,972 reports from the public in 2023 and conducted 1,150 investigations.

She said the agency gained custody of 75 children last year.

“We have a total of 133 children right now in foster and residential care,” Harless said. “We also have about 180 more children that are living with kinship caregivers, so we really appreciate our kinship families that step up for their relatives and take care of those children.”

She said parental drug abuse in 2023 was the top reason the agency gained custody of children.

“We’re still seeing parents using drugs and when we go out, the parents are (testing) positive. We’re testing the children, too. Unfortunately we had 137 out of 279 children test positive for drugs in 2023.

“That’s a 51% positivity rate, unfortunately. And 35 of those children were for ages four days old up to four and a half years old,” Harless said.


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