HOLLIDAYSBURG - The number of child abuse investigations conducted by the Blair County Children, Youth & Families agency soared to its highest number during the past nine years in 2009, but the number of abuse instances the agency was able to confirm was at its lowest number, the agency's leader said Thursday.
Executive Director Maryanne Burger saw the statistics as a good sign that Blair County residents are willing to report instances they think are harmful to children, but she said subsequent investigations often show that what someone may think is abuse falls into another category, such as neglect.
There were 378 suspected instances of abuse reported to the agency in 2009 with 43 being "indicated" as abuse, Burger said.
Despite the low number of "indicated" instances, Burger said, "I tell people, if you have a concern about a child, let us know. It's our job to do the investigation."
The state has specific definitions of abuse that the agency must refer to when conducting its investigations, Burger said.
Burger said also the agency must be able to gather enough solid evidence before concluding the suspected abuse is in fact "indicated," the term used to describe a proven case.
While Blair County experienced no child deaths in 2009 it did have a "near fatality," involving an instance where a child was severely beaten but survived, Burger said.
Child abuse was on the minds of Burger and other local officials Thursday as they gathered on the front patio of the Blair County Courthouse to raise a flag in commemoration of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
The event gave area officials the opportunity to focus on the abuse problem and also gave Burger the chance to explain what her agency is attempting to accomplish through the county's child welfare department.
Many people who came from troubled backgrounds say the one thing that helped them become successful was the presence of a person in their lives who made a difference, Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva told the audience of more than 100 people.
That person may have been a relative, such as an aunt or uncle, a grandparent or even a teacher.
Kopriva, who deals with many addicts in drug court or children in custody cases, said those individuals often lacked "the power of one."
Blair County's agencies "are working to be that power of one" to local children who need help, she said.
Burger said her staff served 1,534 families in 2009, which includes families served more than once. The families included more than 2,000 children,
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.