Local News

DSS Officials Can Interview Children Without Parents' Permission

Posted March 25, 2002

— A Department of Social Services policy to protect children has some parents fighting mad.

When Jonathan Walker is at work, his son, Jonah, is never far from his thoughts.

"Right now, he's bright-eyed, an innocent," Walker said.

Jonah's day care, Bright Horizons in Research Triangle Park, was investigated on sex abuse allegations. The teacher in question was cleared, but when Walker found out that the Durham County Department of Social Services (DSS) had planned to interview children without notifying parents, he was shocked.

"We don't talk about those things at home, the kinds of things they would ask about if they were investigating improper touching," he said.

The regional manager for Bright Horizons said the company does not want to get in the middle of this controversy. Bright Horizons said they support the parents and understand their concerns, but they must also be supportive of DSS, an agency they work with on a regular basis.

Gail Angle, who works for Child Protective Services, said by law, DSS has the right to interview children alone without parental consent.

"It's tough. It's tough for parents. It's tough for providers," Angle said. "When we go out to interview children, we want to find out what they know without any kind of influence by parents or teachers or other staff people who might be involved."

"The case with my son is closed, but the point is not moot. I would be concerned for any parent that had to be subjected to this," Walker said.

The Durham County DSS said they have a policy of notifying parents after interviews have been completed. The state Supreme Court is looking at a case which challenges the authority of DSS to question children without prior parental consent.


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