UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- A former DSS supervisor charged with child abuse is due in court Monday morning, along with her boyfriend, for their first court appearance since they were indicted.
Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper face multiple abuse charges after an 11-year-old in their care was found handcuffed to their porch with a dead chicken around his neck in November.
The case created an outcry to change the oversight in DSS.
“Judging by what happened, there's not just a problem; there's a complete breakdown in the social services program,” said Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez, a frequent critic of the county’s DSS program since Larson and Harper were arrested.
“It needs a complete overhaul,” he said.
In January, the county’s Human Services Director Richard Matens showed county commissioners plans for the overhaul. They include a newly-created post of Quality Assurance Coordinator to review paperwork submitted by workers.
Conflict-of-interest rules, like those that covered Larson’s guardianship of the 11-year-old, would be strengthened.
Questions have already arisen about the new Quality Assurance Coordinator, and how she was chosen.
“If the county commission is over DSS,” said Alvarez, “then it should be an application process and the county commission should choose.”
County commissioner Jonathan Roberts said he is comfortable that the new coordinator will do her job, despite how the post was filled. Roberts said he is starting to see changes in the department already, and the commission didn’t wait for a state review to begin making those changes.
Since Larson’s arrest, the state DHHS agency has ordered a review of several Union County cases, and even asked at least one to be re-opened.
“We anticipate it’s not favorable,” said Roberts. He said Matens is focused on fixing the problems.
Larson and Harper are due in court Monday morning.