In the editorial "Act Quickly to Stop Abuse" (Jan. 3), the author describes problems in the child abuse service system that require immediate attention and high priority in next year's county budget discussions.
One major sector of the child abuse service system was not mentioned: the community agencies that provide prevention, education and treatment services to the families referred to them by the county's social workers and courts. It is the job of these agencies to prevent abuse in high-risk families, or stop the recurrence of abuse where it has already happened.
These community agencies contract with the county to provide the types of services that will reduce the incidence of child abuse. The county prefers to contract out for services because the private agencies can deliver services at a lower cost than the public sector.
Just like the social service and judicial systems, the community agencies are not staffed adequately to meet the demand created by the increased number of child abuse reports in San Diego County. At any given time, the agencies have a waiting list of families needing services, even after every attempt is made to refer the families to other resources (that also have waiting lists). Agencies are forced to prioritize the delivery of services by the ages of the children and the severity of the abuse situation.