Guilford County DSS Explains The Process For Investigating And Removing Children From Homes

11:12 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC-The Guilford County Department of Social Services explained how they receive information and investigate cases regarding children in abusive homes.

On Tuesday, Antonio and Heather Gwynn were arrested after their 17-month-old daughter died on Thursday.

Antonio Gwynn was charged with 2nd degree murder and felony child abuse. Heather is charged with her own count of felony child abuse.

READ: Police: Parents Arrested After 17-Month-Old's Death

The couple had two other children who are now in the care of the Rockingham County Department of Social Services.

News 2 wanted to know how social services departments go about investigating cases of child abuse and neglect.

Steve Hayes with Guilford County Department of Social Services told WFMY News 2's Liz Crawford that they get 6,000 reports of child abuse or neglect every year. On Wednesday alone, they received about 20.

Out of all those reports, there are only 350 children in foster care. That's because they follow a very strict assessment set by the state before removing a child.

Once they determine that they need to visit the home, they prioritize the case. Some cases require an immediate response. The longest DSS waits before investigating is 72 hours. That's only when a child is not in immediate danger.

"We may just how up and interview the child and in a severe case such as physical abuse or sexual abuse, we would not call ahead, we would just show up," said Hayes.

Social workers are trained on how to approach a family. Sometimes they call the family ahead of time to explain the accusations and work together. They're trained in talking to children and questioning other people in the child's life.

Social workers always fill out a standard safety assessment form to determine if a child needs to be removed. Factors include physical harm, sexual abuse, and if the parent has a drug or alcohol problem.

Sometimes a full assessment takes multiple home visits and even with DSS involved, tragedy can still happen.

"It breaks our hearts when things like this happen and although this incident happen in a another county, we know it happens in counties across the state. It doesn't necessarily mean the social worker did anything wrong, if there was a social worker. It just means that we're not mind readers," said Hayes.

Guilford County DSS conducts a full review anytime a child is harmed by their parent to determine what could have been done differently.

The Rockingham County Social Services would not tell us if they were involved with the Gwynns before Toni's death.

Antonio Gwynn has a $3-million bond because of the second degree murder charge. His wife is being held under a $1-million bond.

WFMY News 2, Guilford County Department of Social Services

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