Q: How is it that a DSS worker can reveal information about a case to one of their clients and nothing happen to them? All records, according to the child welfare policy is confidential. It happened to me and nothing happened to the worker.
A: Confidentiality is a standard in child protective services. The identity of the person who reports the suspected abuse or neglect is not shared. The facts in the case are not shared outside the County DSS organization and only internally on a need-to-know basis. If a breach of confidentiality occurs, it is viewed as a serious matter. Actions taken to address a breach of confidentiality are themselves confidential, and would not be shared outside the organization and only internally to a limited number of people on a need-to-know basis. Those who believe a DSS worker has breached confidentiality should contact the County’s Youth and Family Services Director, Dannette Smith, at 704-336-5929.
Q. What is child protective services?
Youth and Family Services Division (YFS) of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS) is mandated by federal and state law to investigate reports of child abuse, neglect, and dependency, and to provide interventions to reduce risk to children. This service is called child protective services (CPS).
Q.Who should I call if I suspect child abuse or neglect?
A. Reporting suspected child abuse, neglect, or dependency is the law, and applies to everyone. In Mecklenburg County, call the Department of Social Services 24-hour Abuse and Neglect HOTLINE at 704-336-CARE (704-336-2273).
Q. Who can report child abuse or neglect?
A. Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect can and should report it. In fact, state law requires anyone who suspects child abuse, neglect and/or dependency to report these suspicions. Referrals can be made by e-mail, telephone, walk-in, mail, or fax. Referring sources can include school personnel, medical personnel, human services providers, neighbors, family members or any other person who suspects that a child has been abused or neglected.
Q. Why can't you tell me details about a specific case?
A. North Carolina law prohibits the disclosure of specific child protective services information and information contained in individual juvenile court case records, for the protection and privacy of the child. (N.C. Statutes: 7B-302, 108A-80 and 7B-2901).
Q. What is the Adoption and Safe Families Act and how does it affect child protective services?
A. On November 19, 1997, President Clinton signed into law the Adoption and
Safe Families Act of 1997. This legislation passed by the Congress establishes unequivocally that the national goals for children in the child welfare system are safety, permanency, and well being. The law reaffirms the need to link the child welfare system and other systems of support for families, as well as between the child welfare system and the courts, to ensure the safety and well being of children and their families. Key provisions of the law state that the safety of children is the top concern that must guide all child welfare services. The law also states that foster care is a temporary setting and not a place for children to grow up.
Q: If commissioners are not supposed to say anything about individual cases without being sued, how could Mr. Helms go on TV and say the Stratton children were better being sexually abused in foster care than being home with their parents? Mr. Helms also said on the radio that the Stratton children would be dead if DSS had not intervened. Hasn't Mr. Helms violated confidentiality?
A: There are facts of the Stratton case that are a matter of public record based on the published ruling of the N.C. Court of Appeals concerning the Stratton case. It would be the decision of the N.C. District Attorney's Office whether or not comments made by any commissioner or other party violate state criminal law regarding confidentiality.