DSS question

Help - my brother in law has been taking care of his nephews for the last 4 years or so, ever since his sister died of cancer. He brought them up from Mississipi to North Carolina. About 4 months ago, someone reported to DSS that the children were being neglected (which they are not). DSS did not substantiate any abuse and/or neglect, that part of the case was closed. However, they are harassing him, saying that he needs to file for guardianship? He has tried on several occasions to get DSS to pay him some money for the care of the children (there are 3 of them) and they have always refused. DSS is now saying they are assuming custody of the kids, but are going to place them with him. He doesnt trust the social worker, and is afraid the kids are going to be taken away from him. The father is not in the picture. What can they do? Should they file for custody with the courts? Do they need to try and find the biological father (not sure if that can be done)? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Your brother will indeed need to seek guardianship. If the biological father can be found he will have to be notified of the proceedings.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I can’t speak to the legal issues, but I am a social worker, formerly with DSS for 20+ years. It would be unlikely that DSS would try to “harass” him by saying he needs to file for custody/guardianship. What they’re most likely doing is trying to find permanency for the children (which they are mandated by law to do.) If he doesn’t have legal custody, then if the biological father shows up, he could just take the children away. It’s not in the children’s best interests to be bounced around, so DSS is trying to avoid this.

Your brother should talk to the social worker, or her/his supervisor if he doesn’t trust the SW. The first question is WHY are they trying to assume custody? Have they asked him to take the “MAPP” classes to be registered as a foster parent? If so, they may be trying to help him get foster care payments for them, which could stabilize their situation by increasing the family’s income. He can also apply for “Work First” for them, which is NC’s version of TANF. (TANF is what used to be known as AFDC.) The payments under this are MUCH less than for foster care, but much easier to qualify for. The children could also get Medicaid automatically through this process. His income won’t count, only theirs. The maximum payment for 3 children is $272 per month. If they have any income themselves, like Social Security through their late mother, they may be over income for the TANF, but not necessarily for Medicaid/NC HealthChoice.

The children’s social worker should be able to give him a lot of this information, customized to the way his county does things. He can also go to the state’s DHHS website: NC DHHS: Children's Services

If they’re of an age to need child care so he can work, DSS can also help with this, although there may be a waiting list.