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By Hyun Namkoong

In the wake of two abuse scandals in foster homes, House lawmakers want to study the quality of Department of Social Services policies for DSS employees who are foster parents.

The recommendations from a joint legislative committee formed after last year’s legislative session advised the creation of a continued study committee to more thoroughly examine the complicated DSS system.

“There was so much to look at, so many things, in such depth,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Mount Airy), the primary sponsor for the bill. “We recommended a continued study.”

A 2013 scandal involving Wanda Larson, a Union County social services employee and a 11-year-old boy who was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken hanging from his neck prompted state lawmakers to study policies for employees who serve as foster parents in the system.

The language for HB 1104 specifically directs the study committee to investigate whether or not a director or employee of a county DSS should be allowed to serve as a foster parent.

“I am pleased that the committee will look at the foster-care system more closely,” said Nancy Carter, executive director for SaySo, an advocacy organization for youth affected by the out-of-home care system in the state.

“For years, folks weren’t addressing any issues.” In North Carolina, more than 14,000 children are in foster care. The study committee will also look into what can be done to shorten the length of time children wait in foster care for “forever homes,” a permanent placement.

Findings from last year’s study committee show that children remain in foster care for an average of two years, which concerns advocates and lawmakers alike. “I anticipate bringing out a big piece of legislation in the long session,” Stevens said.

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Hyun Namkoong

Hyun graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings Global School of Public Health in the health behavior department and she worked as the NC Health News intern from Jan-Aug 2014.