Social Worker Safety

Governor Fletcher signed the Boni Bill into law. The legislation was passed in honor of Boni Frederick who was stabbed and beaten last October of 2007, when she took an infant boy to visit his mother.

Prosecutors say 33-year-old Rene Terrell and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Christopher Lutrell killed Frederick, stole her car and kidnapped the boy.

The General Assembly passed legislation last month that appropriates $6 million to create new safety procedures for state social workers.

Now that the Boni Bill has been signed into law, those with Protection and Permanency say it's a start to addressing safety issues.

The death of Frederick brought to life the dangers social workers face on a daily basis.

"It's very difficult to assess the risk on new cases and we can slide into a comfort zone on cases where there have been ongoing visits," social worker, Kim Wilson said.

Wilson goes out on home visits. She said the law will begin to address the safety issues social workers deal with everyday.

"It is a start, but we're very excited that we can start addressing safety issues for our staff," Wilson said.

"We're excited just for the safety it will provide the social workers and also for the children," said Davy Rupsch, with the Family Enrichment Center.

The law will provide $6 million for social worker safety. Three and a half million will be spent on safe visitation centers and new technology.

"The visitation centers will provide a better environment for visits for parents with their children that are out of home," Wilson said.

The new technology will provide extra safety features for workers who are out on home visits.

"Panic buttons for when we're out. We have something that is a one touch call for help. That will be huge," Wilson said.

Two and a half million will be spent on new staff. Wilson said that's something each office desperately needs.

"Eighty workers over 120 counties comes up to about two-thirds of a worker for each county, which unfortunately doesn't address all the staffing needs that we have," Wilson said.

Wilson said under the law, a study group has been set up to address the other issues social workers face.

She said workers have already received surveys so they can give feedback.

The Family Enrichment Center also provides supervised visits between parents and children.

Those with the center are hoping the law will provide funding to help make their facility more secure.

To find out more about the Boni Bill, click here.

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