An investigation by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) after three children died in a fire on Dec, 12, 2022, found some serious issues with the way the Guilford County Division of Social Services checked the household prior to the fire.

In a May 16 letter to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, NCDHHS gave the county a deadline of 30 days to show how it will correct the list of multiple violations.

Some of the issues from the initial investigation were as follows:

  • The original Child Protective Services Report was screened improperly.
  • All children were not seen and interviewed at initiation.
  • Safety was not assessed thoroughly at initiation.
  • Ongoing contact was not sufficiently maintained with the family to ensure safety.
  • Lack of follow up on reported safety concerns by the mother.
  • Structured Decision Making tools were not completed correctly.”

A follow-up investigation found more violations.

On Wednesday, June 14, shortly after the letter became public, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said he could not answer any questions on the situation at this time, however, he said that, at the county commissioners Thursday, June 15 meeting, the board would have a collective statement for the public.

On June 14, the county did release a press release with a prepared statement by Alston. It states:

“The Board of County Commissioners places the highest level of importance on the protection of our county’s most vulnerable residents, especially children.

“Upon receipt of the notification from the state, staff were directed to analyze the findings and prepare a Corrective Action Plan to address those findings and further strengthen child welfare practices in the county. Guilford County will provide the Corrective Action Plan to the NC Dept. of Social Services, at their request and for their approval. We are committed to sharing updates on our progress in enacting the plan.

“The Board of County Commissioners and County government team take this matter very seriously. The Board will be closely monitoring progress to address all of these findings and ensure children are safe and families are supported in Guilford County.”