WILKESBORO —After a nearly three-hour closed session by the Wilkes County Department of Social Services Board Wednesday, members passed a resolution directing Director Bill Sebastian to fix issues found by the state in a recent investigation.
The Wilkes County DSS Board held a special board meeting on Wednesday afternoon to review the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Report, a scathing six-page evaluation report shedding light on major deficiencies within the WCDSS.
The investigation began after state DHHS officials learned through a news story first reported by The Elkin Tribune on Feb. 19 that kids from Wilkes County had been placed in the home of a convicted child abuser. It is a case in which Wilkes County social workers removed two young girls from one abusive home, then placed them in a home where they were allegedly sexually abused again. It is unknown if WCDSS conducted criminal background checks of those associated with the case.
After the three-hour closed session, board member Blake Lovett read a resolution that contained the following instructions:
The board directed Sebastian to address all issues of leadership addressed in the April 17 state report.
The NCDSS will assist the director in the development of a corrective action plan that will bring the Wilkes Department of Social Services into compliance.
The board will hold the director accountable for the integrity of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services.
The board required the director to develop a plan that will address and correct the high turnover rate in Child Protective Services and to increase supervisor positions from four to five.
As recommended by the report, the board ordered the fulfillment of a program services manager position to ensure that policies are followed to the letter.
The resolution passed unanimously. No other statement was made by any board member.
The cost to taxpayers for the new positions are unknown, but Sebastian said he would release those figures in a few weeks.
In relation to discipline, Sebastian indicated that the board made it very clear that members were holding him responsible for department oversight.
“I think I agree with that…The buck stops with me,” said Sebastian.
Sebastian said in addition to adding staff, there may be existing Child Protective Services staffers who also would be disciplined. He did not rule out termination.
According to the DHHS evaluation report, NCDSS staffers reviewed a sample of 28 cases in March and found problems involving leadership, oversight, and record-keeping. In relation to criminal background checks, the report indicated that criminal background checks were completed in 35.3 percent of the assessed cases.
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.