SOCIAL SERVICES: Ross blames paper, Facebook for lack of foster homes in county

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BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners at its regular Department of Social Services session Monday, Jan. 6, discussed the need for in-county foster homes and reasons for their recent decrease. 

DSS Director Sara Ross gave her department update, which spurred additional discussion about foster homes.

Ross began her update by praising her staff for its work on daycare vouchers, adding there were no names left on the voucher waitlist. Ross said her department has saved more than $47,000 compared to this time last year, and said her department’s in-home caseload is at an ideal range.

Ross said the number of children in foster care and those up for adoption remains unchanged.

After Ross finished her report, Commissioner Jeff Harding asked Ross about the lack of in-county foster homes. The latest batch of statistics show 76 percent of the county’s foster children are placed out of county.

Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff said he recently talked to a friend who lives just outside of Charlotte who told him a foster child from Mitchell County was recently placed in that area.

Ross said one of the primary reasons for the drop of local foster support is negative discussion on Facebook and articles in the Mitchell News-Journal about her department.

“It has an impact on people wanting to foster,” she said. “We had people wanting to foster, they got through the process and when they saw people being negative about DSS on Facebook, they called us and told us not to do it.”

Commissioner Jacob Willis encouraged everyone to support Ross and her department.

“It’s not an easy sell,” he said. “We need to support her. We need to talk to churches and the good people of Mitchell County and encourage them to become foster parents.”

Harding said Ross has a difficult road ahead of her toward “swinging the pendulum from perception to truth and fact.”

“People are going to perceive and believe what they want to believe,” Harding said. “Right now, you’re dealing with a lot of perception.”

Ross said she remains committed to promoting foster care for in-county residents but added that the burden is not solely on her shoulders.

“It’s not just my fight to fight,” Ross said. “I’m willing and able to organize that but it’s everyone here that has to fight it. We need foster homes and one voice isn’t going to do it. It’s going to take everyone.”