Wilkes Co. DSS Director responds to state evaluation

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WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has released a six-page evaluation report outlining several deficiencies within the Wilkes County Department of Social Services.

The investigation began after state officials learned of a case where Wilkes County social workers removed two young girls from one abusive home, then placed them in a home where they were sexually abused again.

North Carolina Division of Social Services staffers reviewed a sample of 28 cases in March and found that social workers and supervisors were spread too thin. Part of the problem was an unusually high number of unfilled child welfare positions.

“The combination of these deficiencies was that fewer workers were expected to deal with more cases, and there was less supervision to ensure that the workers were doing their jobs in a timely fashion,” said DSS Director Bill Sebastian in a statement. “Despite these problems, however, it is important to note that the findings of the review are not an indication of the overall efficiency and compliance of the child welfare units. Nothing in the report indicates problems with the operation of the entire child welfare program, including foster care and child protective services. Nor does anything in the report indicate that any problems were found with the way that the Department handled the case involving the children who have been the subject of so much recent media coverage.”

Sebastian said his office is moving quickly to address the deficiencies listed in the review. He added “all children and families who are the subject of any open CPS reports have been visited, and the safety of the children reassessed. All out of home placements for the children have been reassessed. A system of collecting relevant data on all CPS reports has been implemented. And a system of supervisory oversight has been revamped and put in place.”

The report says there will be a follow up review within six months to see if Wilkes County has made any progress.