Every year, county departments of social services investigate thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect across North Carolina. Tragically, some of those cases of abuse or neglect end in the death of a child. After one of these fatalities occurs, concerned citizens, public officials, and members of the media often have questions about the circumstances leading up to the fatality. The public often wants to understand whether a county department of social services (DSS) was involved with the child, and if so, whether more could have been done to prevent the child’s death. Though child protective services information is highly confidential, a North Carolina statute gives any member of the public a right to request and receive specific information after certain child fatalities and near fatalities. This blog post discusses the responsibilities of public agencies to disclose information under this statute, G.S. 7B-2902. Continue Reading
This post is also cross posted on our Coates Canon blog.
As the 2021 Legislative Session continues, one new session law that addresses child welfare, S.L. 2021-132, has raised a number of questions for county department of social services (“DSS”) directors and attorneys. This new session law has many elements related to child welfare court proceedings, which my colleague Sara DePasquale will address in a separate blog post. This blog focuses solely on Section 1.(c) of S.L. 2021-132, which amends G.S. 7B-302 – a law that addresses confidentiality of child protective services (“CPS”) records. The amendment allows members of the North Carolina General Assembly to access confidential social services information and records in certain limited instances. Continue Reading
I have had the pleasure of working here at the School of Government for eight months now. In that time I have gotten some interesting questions about North Carolina’s delinquency laws. Most often, those questions relate to the confidentiality of juvenile court records. When I first read the statute – G.S. 7B-3000 – I thought it was an open and shut case. Unless you are on the list of people allowed access without a court order, access can only be allowed pursuant to a court order. But then the questions started to come in. Who exactly is the juvenile’s attorney under this statute? Can any prosecutor access juvenile records any time? Can a federal court order disclosure of a North Carolina juvenile record? On what basis can courts order release of juvenile records? It turns out that it’s not open and shut at all. Here is what I have learned so far. Continue Reading
Like every other state, North Carolina has a mandated reporting law for child abuse and neglect. North Carolina’s law requires any person or institution with cause to suspect a child is abused, neglected, or dependent by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker to make a report to the county child welfare department (in most counties, DSS) where the child resides or is found. GS 7B-301. What is in a report? Are there protections for the reporter? What are the rights of the reporter? If DSS decides not to initiate a court action, can the reporter challenge that decision? Continue Reading