During the 1995 launch of the Mandela’s Children Fund in South Africa, that country’s former president, Nelson Mandela, uttered these powerful words: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Looking this week at how Sampson County’s Department of Social Services has rallied around the foster children in its care, it appears evident that our county’s soul, as it relates to the way we treat children, is faithful and pure, compassionate and determined.
Those same adjectives can be used to describe the social workers, foster families, judges, guardian ad litems, attorneys and even parents who have worked so diligently to make a positive impact on the lives of children here in Sampson.
The numbers bear witness to the impact that we see in Sampson, a welcome testament to how our DSS is rising above the problems that exist in society today, particularly as it pertains to parents who have lost their children because of such issues as drug addiction.
In a Tuesday Sampson Independent article, it was reported that there are less than 90 Sampson children in foster care today, down from an average of 130 just a few short years ago and upwards of 100 in 2016. Just as interesting, Sampson only had a handful of licensed foster homes a few years back. Today, there are 13.
Those numbers become even more impressive when you look at the disturbing trend across North Carolina, where the number of children in foster care broke the 11,000 mark, the highest level in a decade and a 25 percent jump over the last few years.
It is obvious Sampson is doing something right.
According to DSS director Sarah Bradshaw and her staff, they have made a concerted effort to drop their foster care numbers, and they have used awareness campaigns, education, foster parent recruitment and focused work with parents to provide children with the home lives they deserve.
In some cases, children have been reunited with their parents, the thing DSS workers most want to see happen. But in times where they simply isn’t possible, they’ve turned to other family members and increased numbers of foster families for the stability they want each child to have.
The work has been remarkable, and while we’ve not doubt the task was daunting, our DSS workers dug in and made the seemingly impossible happen. And the best news is, the winners are the dozens of children who have either been abused or neglected and need a safe place to live.
Our prayer is that one day people who choose to have children will actually put those children first, avoiding the pitfalls of drug abuse that makes them unfit parents and leaves helpless children without those they love and depend upon the most.
But until that day comes, we are thankful to have caring individuals who work for, or partner with, our Department of Social Services helping to ensure that children in this county have a safe place to call home.