Series shows failures of North Carolina’s social services system

In a three-part series with a grant from the Fund, Carolina Public Press found that in many North Carolina counties, social service agencies are being led by people who don’t meet minimum professional standards required by law. State agencies can’t prevent counties from hiring unqualified people and can’t reverse local hiring decisions. In at least one case, an unqualified agency director, married to the county sheriff, later admitted to a work-related felony. Workers in her office, meanwhile, unlawfully separated children from their families. One estimate put the county’s potential liability at $50 million for various illegal acts. Only a few states have a decentralized social services system like North Carolina’s. The series found that most of them had specific measures in place to prevent or limit the hiring of unqualified personnel in social services. The series was reported and written by Kate Martin and edited by Frank Taylor.