Welcome to The Kicker from Carolina Public Press, a North Carolina news show bringing you conversations with journalists, sources and newsmakers from across the state.
In this episode, Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter Kate Martin talks about the results of her recent request for NC Department of Health and Human Services records related to the agency’s relations with Cherokee County’s Department of Social Services. DHHS took control of child welfare services between March and October 2018 and a related SBI probe of DSS continues.
Key findings in the records included a DHHS memo from October 2017 that showed concern about problems with falsified child welfare services records at Cherokee County DSS, which the state identified in a routine review. Ashley Welch, the district attorney for the state’s southwestern counties, including Cherokee, has expressed outrage that she was not told about these findings, which involved potentially criminal action by DSS employees.
DHHS has emphasized that the problems identified then are separate from the Custody and Visitation Agreements that prompted later court action, the DHHS takeover of child welfare services and an SBI probe. The CVAs brought state attention in December 2017, and following court actions in early 2018, the state’s virtual occupation of Cherokee DSS in March 2018. DHHS spokespeople have told CPP that the findings during the October 2017 state review were not at all related to the CVAs, which the courts later ruled were unlawful.
In this interview, Martin also talks about the costs that will have to be repaid to the US government due to the falsification of records, the way DHHS handled the rehiring of the suspended DSS director and the way both agencies handled the state’s plan to withdraw its team in October 2018.
About The Kicker
The Kicker is a production of Carolina Public Press. It also airs weekly at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WPVM radio 103.7 FM in Asheville. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contact the staff of Carolina Public Press about The Kicker.