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Statement on Cherokee County Department of Social Services

Raleigh

Effective Monday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will temporarily assume leadership of child welfare services at the Cherokee County Department of Social Services, as authorized under state law.

Cherokee County leadership was informed today and has expressed its support of the temporary action.

DHHS initiated an investigation of child welfare services in Cherokee County after learning that the Cherokee Department of Social Services had been using “Custody and Visitation Agreements” in removing children from parents and placing them in other homes without the required oversight of the court system. Subsequent information gathered during DHHS’ investigation revealed a systematic lack of adequate training, supervision and capacity to deliver appropriate child welfare services beyond the use of the Custody and Visitation Agreements.

“Our first priority is to protect the safety and well-being of the vulnerable children and families in need of child welfare services across our state,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “There is a lot of work to be done to bring Cherokee County Department of Social Services into compliance with laws, policies and appropriate child welfare practices. Given the critical work performed by our child welfare system and the urgency of the situation, we feel this temporary action is necessary to stabilize the county’s child welfare services. Our goal is to work collaboratively with Cherokee County leadership to ensure that families and children are provided with the services they need, in accordance with law and policy.”

DHHS staff will be on site at the Cherokee Department of Social Services during this interim period and will work closely with staff to manage and stabilize child welfare services and develop a plan to bring it into compliance with all applicable laws and appropriate practices. This temporary action is authorized under N.C. 108A-14.

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