Loudoun to handle inquiries of abuse

MANASSAS — Loudoun County will now be picking up the tab for some of the investigations regarding child abuse complaints against Prince William County employees at its juvenile residential facilities, the Molinari Emergency Shelter and Detention Home.

Since 1991, Manassas, Manassas Park and the county have had an agreement that one jurisdiction would conduct investigations for the other if a department of social services employee was accused of abuse or neglect of either their own child or a child who was in their care at a residential facility.

When a complaint is made against an employee of a local department, state law requires another area Virginia Department of Social Services to conduct an investigation to avoid a conflict of interest.

In the past 10 years, however, both cities have had no complaints lodged against them, while the county has averaged five a year.

Because Manassas and Manassas Park have significantly smaller staffs than the county, the financial and time burden of conducting investigations weighs more heavily on the cities than it does on the county, said Jim Oliver, director of the Department of Social Service for Manassas.

A staff report presented to the Manassas City Council during its Monday meeting states the law has changed since 1991-1992 and several disputes have arisen over the provision of services largely because Manassas and Manassas Park have not had any complaints against them.

Oliver said he is not sure what the total amount of the investigations have cost the city. However, Oliver said, all funds come from the DSS budget, which is made up 80 percent of state and federal funds and 20 percent from city funds.

“It depends on the investigation and on the staff hours,” Oliver said. “There are several components to each investigation and I don’t want to hazard a guess as to the cost. It really is not an issue because we do it as courtesy.”

Because the current agreement is outdated, Oliver said, a resolution needed to be passed to bring in a fourth party, Loudoun County, who would work with both cities to reduce the number of investigations to which they respond.

Oliver told the council that one half of all the Prince William investigations derive from people who work in group-home facilities. It is these investigations that under the new agreement will be handled by Loudoun County, and Prince William will in turn investigate any Loudoun allegations.

This new agreement has been in discussions between the four jurisdictions since 1999, Oliver said. Manassas is the first to officially pass the agreement, but, Oliver said the other jurisdictions have agreed in “principal.”

In addition to the fourth jurisdiction, Prince William County has agreed to pay for services provided to juveniles and families as a result of investigations on a case-by-case basis. However, the city will not be reimbursed for staff time in conducting investigations.

Staff writer Trina Goethals can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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