Stumbo Victory Protects North Carolina Family
- Friday, October 24, 2003
Ms. Smith summoned a supervisor, Tina Jones, who came to the Boyds' home and also demanded that Ms. Smith be allowed to privately interview the children and search the home. When Mr. Boyd again declined, the supervisor asked to see the children. Mr. Boyd called the children to him and the DSS workers could see that they were well dressed, well fed and healthy.
On Thursday, DSS worker Valerie O'Hara interviewed Mrs. Boyd at the hospital. Mrs. Boyd confirmed that the older boys had babysat on Tuesday and Wednesday and that they were not left home alone every day in the care of a 9 year-old.
On Friday, DSS filed a Petition alleging obstruction or interference with a juvenile investigation. The petition cited the allegation about a 9 year-old, but recognized that the two older boys were 12 and 11. Although no emergency existed, DSS asked the judge to issue the order without a hearing, which the judge rejected because North Carolina law requires a hearing unless there is an emergency situation requiring immediate action.
HSLDA, filed a motion to dismiss the petition arguing that Stumbo required DSS to close its file once it learned that the allegations were false. The juvenile judge agreed and dismissed the noninterference petition without even holding a hearing. The judge wrote in his order:
"That after having seen the children in person and having talked to both parents it should have been apparent that the report of the children being left alone every day in the care of a nine year old was simply untrue."
"That after conducting an initial screening the Department should have concluded that a statutorily mandated investigation was not necessary and dismissed the report."
Tragically, some children are abused and neglected. Equally tragic is the fact that DSS's limited resources to protect those children are stretched thin by false reports. In this case, the time and energy of no less than three social workers and a juvenile judge had been needlessly expended because of a false tip.
But DSS also bears some responsibility. Once the social workers learned that the allegations in the report were false that should have ended the matter. In Stumbo, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that social workers should be guided by common sense and by the constitution.
For more legal news, visit www.hslda.org
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