Articles Tagged with social services

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Hi, Ms. Carolyn

My wife and I need some advice. In 2009, we had to see a judge in a matter of a 50B taken out by my stepson’s father based upon alleged child abuse. The 50B judge said that we would revisit the 50B issue after DSS finished their investigation, but it was never resolved. The father of my stepson let him stay with us after it happened.  We waited a month, and the father’s lawyer withdrew. The Judge dropped the 50B case due to the father not moving forward with the 50B. I checked a box on a DSS form saying that I was not admitting any guilt with DSS.  DSS never did an investigation. DSS apparently found abuse in the home because a year before (2008) my wife got mad, and took out a 50B on me. My wife then dropped the 50B. Then, my stepson’s father got a hold of the 50B my wife filed and dropped and DSS went with the decision based on my wife’s 50B.  Can DSS base a case on my wife’s dropped 50B?

Carolyn Answers….

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Dear Carolyn,

I am a legally blind mother with a ten-year-old daughter. My daughter was just diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. Just prior to the diagnosis, my daughter had a fainting spell, and my neighbor called social services. Now, I have the Department of Health and Human Services at my door. They have threatened to place her in foster care if there is another fainting spell. The fainting spells happen when her blood sugar gets too low. What are my rights? Do I need a lawyer?

– Please help

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Dear Carolyn,

I have a case going on with the Guilford County Department of Social Services.  The social worker advised me not to get an attorney, and that it would be worse for me if I got an attorney, and that I don’t need one anyway.  I feel this was a threat, and that I might lose my child if I get an attorney.  Can I get an attorney?  Should I get an attorney?

– Feeling Threatened

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By: Carolyn J. Woodruff, attorney

While nothing in this article should be viewed to condone the horrific acts of Christopher Lee Neal, age 42, who shot at a social services worker after children were taken from his home, the event should be a wake up call for the Department of Social Services (DSS). Apparently this Reidsville man targeted at least two social services employees that had been working on his child custody case. He shot at one of the social workers through her car window in Burlington. According to news reports, she was not injured. He was later apprehended in Myrtle Beach.

Let’s face it. Taking away a child is serious business and emotionally drenching, and should only be done by DSS with all the proper protocols, which involve either having law enforcement or a Juvenile Judge.   Unfortunately, DSS in many instances is acting outside the bounds of the law and the Constitution, and they do not follow proper protocol regarding the removal of children, in allegedly dangerous situations, from homes. This makes a parent mad.

DSS is not law enforcement, and DSS is not a court of law. DSS is an agency that MUST apply to the Juvenile Court for the authority for search and seizure of children. DSS can assess the danger and apply to the Juvenile Court, but DSS is not permitted to “search and seize” children based on its own safety assessment. This seizure is improper. While I like Sheriff Page, his statement if reported accurately is both incorrect and not in keeping with the US Constitution. He reportedly said in a Press Conference, ‘Child Protective Services were investigating a case…During the process in their job, sometimes they have to remove children from the home because of neglect and abuse.” No, this is not correct. DSS can investigate, and DSS can apply to the court to obtain an order to remove the child, but DSS cannot do this removal simply because DSS thinks it should. To do so is unconstitutional search and seizure.

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Jennifer Crissman, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law GroupJAC

            Part 9 of our continuing series for family law attorneys practicing in Guilford and surrounding counties focuses on the admission of hearsay from social workers and the Department of Social Services. When there is a case that has allegations of abuse, there will likely be intervention from the Department of Social Services at some point. As in our scenario, there usually will be an initial investigator, and at some point, the case will be assigned to another worker for follow up after the initial investigation. By the time that the case goes to hearing, there can be multiple workers who have interacted with the family and touched the case. The prospect of getting not just one, but multiple social workers with heavy caseloads in to court to testify is a daunting task to say the least. This segment will review the case of In re C.R.B. and the admission of DSS records authored by multiple social workers. In re C.R.B., 781 S.E.2d 846 (N.C. App. 2016)

The case of In re C.R.B. involves the termination of parental rights. One of the children in this case was discovered unattended in a car. During an assessment by the Department of Social Services it was discovered that the mother suffered from substance dependence, multiple debilitating mental illnesses, and intellectual disabilities. As a result of these issues the mother was unable to provide proper care for the children, and mother consented to an order adjudicating the children as neglected. The children were placed in foster care, and mother signed a case plan designed to address her issues, which included mental health, substance abuse and intellectual disability. The mother attended all meetings with DSS and completed some goals contained in her case plan, but did not complete the substance abuse assessment required by the case plan. As a result, her visitation with the children was suspended, and ultimately the permanent plan was changed from reunification to adoption.

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Jennifer Crissman, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group

JACIn this part of our continuing practical series, we will address the issues family law attorneys face when trying to admit DSS records and social worker’s testimony into evidence in Guilford and surrounding counties. Matter of Smith is a particularly useful case for when the child has made statements to one social worker, but that worker is not available to testify on the day of the hearing. As most attorneys who have needed a social worker’s testimony can attest, these are very busy people with important jobs. It is hard to get a social worker in court as they are usually dashing from one case to the next. Also, the social worker who initially receives the case may not keep the case in the long run. This is where the holdings of Smith can be applied.

The case of Matter of Smith is a termination of parental rights case. Matter of Smith, 287 S.E.2d 440, 56 N.C. App. 142 (1970). The children in Smith were removed from the mother’s care due to neglect and were placed in foster care system nearly ten years before the petition for termination of parental rights being filed. Within that almost ten-year time span, DSS provided services to the mother. However, the mother failed to maintain contact with the children and did not make sufficient progress towards correcting the conditions that initially led to the children’s removal. As a result of the mother’s lack of action, the Department of Social Services filed the Petition for Termination of Parental Rights.

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