Last updated: April 24. 2014 7:11PM - 1756 Views
By Anthony Gonzalez agonzalez@civitasmedia.com

Rep. Sarah Stevens (Surry, Wilkes) said Wilkes County Department of Social Services failed miserably on a case that resulted in a state investigation.
Rep. Sarah Stevens (Surry, Wilkes) said Wilkes County Department of Social Services failed miserably on a case that resulted in a state investigation.
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WILKESBORO — The children who allegedly were sexually abused by two Yadkin County caretakers were placed in the home by the Wilkes County Department of Social Services against the recommendation from Yadkin County DSS officials, said a state lawmaker this week.

Rep. Sarah Stevens (Surry, Wilkes) said she learned that Yadkin County DSS officials rejected the placement of children into the home of Randy Galyean of Boonville. Galyean’s wife, Tammy Galyean, who was also of the residence had a prior conviction in Surry County for child abuse.

Stevens is the General Assembly’s co-chair of the state’s Committee on Omnibus Foster Care and Dependency.

According to police, Randy Jay Galyean, 52, of Elkin, was charged in late January with one count of felony first-degree rape, two counts of sex offense parental role, two counts of felony intentional child abuse serious physical injury, and one count of felony statutory rape sex offense defendant more than 6 years. Tammy Renee Galyean, 40, of Elkin, was charged days later with two counts of intentional felony child abuse serious physical injury.

“Yadkin (DSS) said we don’t want it. We don’t want to follow it (the supervision of the case), so that really concerns me…They felt the placement wouldn’t be appropriate,” said Stevens in describing Yadkin County DSS’s decision to reject the case, but ignored by an understaffed Wilkes County DSS.

DSS guidelines allow a county to reject the recommendations of another county DSS office so long as the originating county DSS department provides supervision of the children.

“When we receive a written request from another county to review or sense the stability of a location, we complete a kinship sheet and a care sheet,” said Yadkin County Manager Aaron Church.

Church said after a review of the home is done, Yadkin DSS officials provide recommendation to the placing county. “When it’s not approved (the request for supervision), we document it. It doesn’t mean the other agency has to accept our recommendations,” said Church.

Church declined comment on which DSS office was responsible for a background check on the Galyean case and indicated that a home inspection and background checks are two different issues.

It is unknown if a background check was ever performed for all adults living in the Galyean household. Privacy laws prevent public examination of information relating to minors, or of the suspects in these cases.

“This is one of those cases that they (Wilkes County DSS) took on. They had an obligation. They failed miserably on their obligation,” said Stevens, who was perplexed on why understaffed Wilkes County DSS workers would absorb responsibility of an out-of-county placement.

“We are going to establish legislation or clear up DSS policies,” she said. Stevens is seeking to prevent a maneuver that would allow a county to place children out-of-county if the other county advises against the placement.

After learning of the case on Feb. 12 through a published article in The Elkin Tribune, state investigators blitzed the Wilkes County DSS office and released the Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Program Evaluation Report on April 17. The state’s report listed 38 deficiencies against Wilkes County DSS and contained steps needed to bring the department back into compliance.

Stevens said she appreciated what the report said and she hopes Wilkes County DSS will addresses being short-staffed, who’s on the ground, and other deficiencies cited in its management.

Steven expressed major disappointment in learning through the report that Wilkes County DSS assessed files only had 35.3 percent of criminal background checks completed, a sign of being understaffed and under managed.

“This is not a good number. They need to be at 100 percent,” continued Stevens.

Stevens suggested the complexities facing Wilkes DSS may stretch beyond the hiring of a social worker.

“What we really want are people on boards who will take an interest, who will review the process…who will sit and discuss the problems that are going on. It can’t be just about sitting on a board for the honor of it and having coffee and tea,” said Stevens.

Stevens had no opinion on staff discipline strategies, citing action can only happen by the local DSS board.

Stevens said, “The decision to retain or fire someone is going to come with the details. Clearly whatever happened there was shoddy, very shoddy.”

On Wednesday night, a frustrated board of directors for the Wilkes County DSS gathered in a special session to review the state’s findings. After a three-hour closed conference, the board ushered in a variety of immediate reforms, accepted all of the state’s recommendations, and ordered its director, Bill Sebastian, to bring the Wilkes DSS into state compliance.

The state DHHS will be directly involved in the oversight and corrective action plan development of the deficiencies.

In one statement, board member Blake Lovett said, “We will hold the director accountable for the integrity of Wilkes DSS.”

Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.

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