LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Jacob Hiatt described the moment he got to hold his 3-year-old daughter again as both happy and sad. She and six other children, all under the age of 6, were taken out of a Lexington home police say was unfit for children. After a welfare check, police found human and animal feces and urine scattered across the home, charging Jamie Hiatt, Jacob’s wife, and Michael McKnight with felony child abuse.
Hiatt says he and his wife had not been together for over a year and had seen little of his daughter since they split. He was grateful to be reunited with her on Monday, but frustrated it took so long.
“When they got taken Friday night from their mother, I wasn't called, I wasn't nothing -- I wasn't found,” Hiatt said.
He learned from family and friends about the charges and that his daughter had been removed from the home, not the Department of Social Services.
"I understand everybody has a job, I get it, but at the same time I was part of their job, and they failed on that part of it and I hate it,” Hiatt said.
"Sometimes it can be within 30 minutes, sometimes it can take three days,” said Davidson County Director of DSS Dale Moorefield when asked about how long it takes to track down relatives in child abuse cases.
Moorefield says his department deals with 1,400 to 1,500 child abuse cases every year in the county, but believes this was one of the dirtiest in recent memory in terms of conditions of the home.
Hiatt says he and his side of the family have put in calls to DSS, and tried to show them pictures a year ago, trying to point out the situation and says nothing ever happened.
"We've worked with the family before,” Moorefield said. "As far as nothing happening, that's not the case. Sometimes we get to a point where things are to a point where we can say its safe to not be involved anymore, and then there are times where we continue to be involved in a case.”
Moorefield would not disclose how many times this family has been reported to DSS and says it’s an ongoing investigation.
"One of the things that folks don't understand is some things that people report, they consider not acceptable in a home, cleanliness, supervision, that kind of thing,” Moorefield said. "But it might not rise to the level of the law and statute.”
It is the law in North Carolina to report to DSS if you suspect or see signs of child abuse or neglect.
Because Jacob Hiatt is still legally married to Jamie Hiatt, he is also the legal guardian of two toddlers that are being treated in Brenner Children’s Hospital. One was found in the home by police with maggots in his diaper. Hiatt says the boys are doing much better now, and are close to even being released after treated for malnourishment. Hiatt does not know whether he is the biological father of the twins and is working on getting a DNA test.