Five filing social services cases with the DOJ

Jan. 16, 2014 @ 08:41 PM

Jeff Gerber, founder of Justice for All, said five cases involving the Vance County Department of Social Services have been filed for review with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Justice for All is a coalition advocating for children. They say problems are numerous in DSS offices across the state. Justice for All first gained attention in Union County, where an 11-year-old under care of a DSS worker was found in November handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

After review complaints of about two dozen families, the coalition targeted Vance County next with a goal of helping claims to be filed by a Wednesday deadline set by the DOJ.

Vance County DSS director Antonia Pedroza has said claims of corruption about how social services are administered locally are “absolutely false.”

Processing of the cases is expected to be lengthy.

Gerber said that each case will be handled as if on appeal for a change of venue.

“Once the Department of Justice receives them and reviews them, it will be as a change of venue for those cases,” Gerber said. “There is really no telling how long that will take. This is a nationwide program.”

Jeremy Bess said Justice for All continues to hear about families claiming they have been wronged by DSS. He is hopeful of an extended deadline.

“We would like the submission process to be reopened, to allow for more claims,” Bess said. “This was so poorly communicated, and many people never heard about it.”

Gerber said he would like to see a full investigation of North Carolina social services departments.

“One DSS agency investigating another is not acceptable,” Gerber said. “I also have very little confidence in the state agencies. Good protocol would be to seek a change of venue, possibly reopen cases and re-investigate.”

Gerber said at the heart of many problem cases is a rush to judgment by incompetent social workers who improperly investigated allegations of child abuse or neglect, and sometimes they did practically no investigation at all.

“That’s why I would like to see the involvement from the federal level,” Gerber said. “A third-party, unbiased department must become involved.”

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.