ONSLOW COUNTY -

Arrest reports say 33-year-old Joshua Gary Baker of Midway Park abused his young child last month.

It's one of three stories we've told you in a month child abuse: all three involving fathers, two cases ending in homicide.

Heidi Baur, director of Onslow County Social Services Department, handles cases like these, and says child abuse is an ongoing problem.

The arrest warrants say Baker allegedly hit his 3-year-old son in the face and body with a belt in their home on Cukela Street on Feb. 1. Baur says physical punishment like this can often go too far.

"The problem with using a belt to go along with other issues, it that once I swing a belt, I no longer have control over where it hits, and if a child moves or turns, it's going to hit him or her in a different location than where I may have intended it to," Baur said.

Baur says out of the 100 counties in North Carolina, Onslow County has been consistently in the top 10 for its high number of child abuse reports. She says that number is actually going down, despite some of the more severe cases we've seen happen so far this year.

Baur adds there were 3,001 reports of child abuse in Onslow County to the Department of Social Services last year. Out of those reports, 2,065 met the legal requirements to start a social services investigation. About 1,500 required safety services for the children in some way.

"Our numbers have actually gone down," Baur said. "We have a lot of good things in play right now that are helping us with that. We have a child advocacy center, which any case of child abuse are seen at the Child Advocacy Center."

In 2011, Social Services investigated more 2,122 child abuse reports in the county, and about 1,700 resulted in safety services for the children. Baur says 2013 looks promising for fewer cases.