Seeking Justice For Cherokee County Children Unlawfully Removed From Families

May 21, 2019

The Cherokee County Department of Social Services unlawfully removed dozens of children from their homes over a period of years. A federal lawsuit is underway, and the North Carolina Department of Justice is considering criminal charges.
Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr, Creative Commons

For years, the Cherokee County Department of Social Services illegally removed dozens, and potentially even hundreds, of children from their homes. Instead of seeking an official court order from a judge, DSS workers instead instructed numerous families to sign custody and visitation agreements (CVAs) to authorize removal of their children.

In some cases workers threatened to send kids into foster care if the agreements were not signed. A district court judge ruled this practice unconstitutional last year, and now a federal lawsuit is now underway to seek justice for the affected families.

Lawyers are seeking class-action status and claim far more people were involved than has been documented so far. The state Department of Justice is also considering criminal charges against county officials who supervised and implemented the practice.

Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter Kate Martin spoke with two affected parents and reported on the latest developments in the story, including the culmination of an SBI investigation into the events. She shares her reporting with host Frank Stasio.