NC DHHS not bound by Compromised Settlement from June 2005

In November, I sent an email to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) asking for action to initiate a Judicial Review of the Compromised Settlement (Settlement) filed June 21, 2005 in the civil case between Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and the Rutherford County Department of Social Services (RCDSS). I also asked for the replacement of Director John Carroll. Later that day, I received a call from Michael Becketts, the Assistant Secretary of the NC DHHS. He acknowledged my email and asked for a face to face meeting to discuss my concerns. The meeting took place this past Monday. Julie Cronin, the Assistant General Counsel for the NC DHHS was also present for the meeting.

We began with a short recap of why we were meeting which included Mr. Beckett’s voicing his concern for what I thought was going on in Rutherford County –specifically as it related to the RC DSS. After a short summary of my involvement with WOFF including my time inside and since leaving in July of 2008, I explained my perspective of the civil action which resulted in the Settlement. My remarks included the mistakes made by RC DSS workers stemming from what I believed was a lack of training on dealing with members of a closed religious subculture. I suggested some resources for training in the area of interviewing children from closed subcultures and both seemed receptive to the information.

During the meeting, Mr. Becketts explained the new relationship between his office and the RC DSS as it pertains to complaints of abuse involving WOFF. The letter dated November 16th sent to John Carroll outlining the new procedures was published on December 5th on the Rccatalyst.com. This letter contained time lines for reports of potential abuse which were “screened-in” or “screened-out” in relation to the Settlement.

Screened-in reports are ones which meet the parameters of the Settlement and are cleared for further investigation by RC DSS. NC DHHS will be notified within one business day of a screen-in report and provided a copy of the completed DSS-5010 form. This is a 14 page form outlining observations of the child and actions taken based on observations and interviews.

Screened-out reports will be forwarded the same business day to the NC DHHS Deputy Division Director of Child Welfare Services. The reports could be screened out for various reasons. However, if we look at the Settlement, screened-out reports may be classified as such because the accusations surrounding “blasting prayer” or “isolation”- discipline.

In his comments about the Settlement, he characterized it a “narrow” and “highly unusual.” Next, Mr. Becketts proposed a hypothetical situation going on explain the potential and evolving new procedures in place. One scenario went as follows; if a “screened-out” report met other extensive guidelines of the law, the NC DHHS may then refer the case to an adjoining county for follow-up and/or investigation.

These actions would be free of the “narrow” guidelines of the Settlement based on his belief, as confirmed by Ms. Cronin, that the NC DHHS is not bound by the Settlement because they were not a party named or defendant in the civil action. Any adjoining County DSS would then be their “agent” and also free of the “narrow” requirements of the Settlement.

Ms. Cronin took time to make the distinction between the NC DHHS and “the State of North Carolina.” They were expressing the stance of the NC DHHS and not speaking for “the State.”

Yes, I asked the obvious question, “Why has it taken so long for this to be decided?”

Mr. Beckett said we cannot speak for previous administrations; this is our belief and stance going forward. He also expressed his concern for all children of North Carolina. He acknowledged the difficulty in helping with those who suffered abuses in years past, but going forward he and his department were committed to helping children who suffer abuse or neglect.

We ended the meeting shortly before noon. I drove away my mind racing with new information, possibilities and hope. The potential for proper investigation into claims of abuse or neglect inside of WOFF just took a giant leap forward! Of course, when you read the defendant list in the civil action brought by WOFF in 2003, the NC DHHS nor “the State of North Carolina” are listed. This makes sense on one hand, but how will this play out? I warned Mr. Becketts that WOFF is very litigious. He and Ms. Cronin were not fazed at all.

I still need to ask Attorney General Josh Stein his view on the Settlement. For now, things are looking brighter for the children of WOFF.

As far as Josh Farmer’s assessment that the Settlement has provided a “foundation for a healthy… relationship” between WOFF and RC DSS… Does he mean healthy for the children or the WOFF leadership trying to hide the true nature of their practices? The symbiotic relationship between RC DSS and WOFF which covered years of abuses is now subject to change.

In 2017, the Associated Press provided a year-long proverbial “indictment hearing” for WOFF leadership and certain local and State officials. 2018 holds the potential for more new revelations and justice for the years and years of wrongs to be made right.

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Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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(Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 624.

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One thought on “NC DHHS not bound by Compromised Settlement from June 2005”

  1. Thank you again for another informative post. Things take time but progress is being made. Step by step and day by day. It is now Christmas weekend and can only wish all readers a merry Christmas and a wonderful, happy and amazing New Year.

    Arthur Thiry
    Sweden

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