Pictured (front row, from left) are CPS Administrator Karen Thompson, Dove House Program Manager Allegra Hope, Board of Commissioners Chair Melissa Neader, Pharos Executive Director Tonya Fowler and Iredell County Partnership for Young Children Executive Director Lisa Familo.


Karen Thompson has seen a lot during the 28 years she’s worked as a Child Protective Services investigator and administrator.

There’s plenty she wishes she could unsee.

During Tuesday’s Iredell County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Thompson outlined some of the challenges that the professionals in the Department of Social Services CPS division regularly face.

“There’s a war out there, and we are fighting hard, but we cannot do it alone,” Thompson told the board.

In Iredell County, from February of 2023 to March of 2024, Child Protective Services investigators handled 1,054 reports of abuse and neglect involving 2,196 children.

A 5-year-old child recently tested positive for cocaine and another was hospitalized after ingesting a controlled substance, Thompson said.

CPS investigators are also seeing an increase in children born with methamphetamine and cocaine in their system, she added.

While her co-workers are doing their best to keep children safe, they are not universally loved. Local DSS investigators have had doors slammed in their face, faced menacing dogs and been threatened with guns, Thompson said.

“It’s a dangerous job out there, but somebody has to do it,” she said.

The challenge has recently been made more difficult because six investigator positions — out of 25 — are open. That means a larger caseload for investigators.

Iredell County also needs more foster care parents to care for children who have been removed from homes where there is abuse or neglect. There have been instances, Thompson said, where there are no placement options and the children are housed temporarily at the DSS office.

“We have some children that are in horrific situations,” she explained. “We have children testing positive for opiates, testing positive for fentanyl, testing positive for cocaine.”

In addition to signing up to provide foster care, residents can help at-risk children by reporting any signs of abuse or neglect to DSS, Thompson said.

Commissioners expressed their support for the work that the CPS division and their community partners at the Guardian ad Litem’s Office, Pharos Parenting, Dove House, the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children, and other agencies do on a daily basis.

Board Chair Melissa Neader proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, and each commissioner took time to thanking local professionals dedicated to helping abused and neglected youth.

“I appreciate you,” Commissioner Scottie Brown said. “There’s a special place in heaven for you.”

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