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Inconsistency and inequity in child welfare policies across North Carolina.

Illustration by Brittain Peck / Carolina Public Press.

North Carolina is one of few states whose child protective services are run locally with limited state oversight. Funding and pay levels vary widely across the state. Implementation of policies also varies. Data analysis shows discrepancies in outcomes, with some counties removing children from families at several times the statewide rate, while other are counties removing children at less than half the rate statewide. This and other systemic problems, including a dated and unwieldy statewide database system, are leading to undesirable outcomes for children and families. Solutions to these problems exist and are recognized by many North Carolina agencies, previous investigations by a legislative division and the policies used in other states. Patchwork Protection is a four-part investigative series exploring these issues, being published serially in June 2021.

follow our investigation

Brian Hogan sits outside a school in Marble on Saturday. Hogan and his daughter were awarded a combined $4.6 million in damages by a federal jury in May after she was wrongfully separated from him by the Cherokee County Department of Social Services. Jacob Biba / Carolina Public Press

Protection of NC children, families depends on the county

Rates at which local departments of social services remove children from families point to inequity and inconsistency, with extremes of very high and low levels.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services Director Stoney Blevins sits at his desk in Asheville. Blevins was asked to testify before the General Assembly last year about how social workers handled a case, but his hands were tied by confidentiality rules. Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

Stories recount concerns with DSS agencies across North Carolina

Confidentiality rules intended to protect children present challenges for investigating allegations of DSS misconduct.

Paige Rosemond, Wake County Division of Child Welfare director, works from her home office in Wake Forest. She’s concerned that the lack of an adequate statewide data system undermines child welfare in North Carolina. Alicia Carter / Carolina Public Press

Structure of NC child protective services leads to inequity

Troubled data system, loose compliance with standards, local autonomy, training and pay disparities, and resource imbalances add up to wide variation in child protection policies and outcomes across North Carolina.

Resources

These interactive graphics show the project’s data in different ways. Counties where the average removal rate for children over the decade from 2010 to 2019 was greater than 150% of the state’s average rate are considered high. Counties where the average rate was more than 200% of the state’s average rate are considered very high. Those with rates less than 2/3 of the state’s are considered low and those with rates less than half of the state’s are considered very low. Rankings are from lowest rate compared with the state to highest.

Contributors

This series is produced by the news team of Carolina Public Press.
Articles by Kate Martin, Frank Taylor and Imari Scarbrough, with assistance from Christian Green.
Photos by Jacob Biba, Colby Rabon and Alicia Carter.
Illustration by Brittain Peck.
Graphics by Taylor Buck.
Editing by Frank Taylor and Laura Lee.

Audio

To download an audio summary of the series, select the three dots to the right.

Patchwork Protection. By Christian Green for Carolina Public Press.

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