Local News

Wilson Pastor, Wife Seek Answers After DSS Rejects Request To Become Foster Parents

Posted July 11, 2003

— A Baptist preacher and his wife who applied to become foster parents said they were rejected by the

Wilson County Division of Social Services

. They have also not been told why.

The Wilson County DSS told WRAL it has only rejected four applicants in the last five years, including the Rev. Gene and Marsha Wells.

The Wells are well respected and both know about the foster care system firsthand -- the reverend's father was an orphan and Marsha Wells was adopted as a baby.

The couple completed a 13-week training program and passed a criminal background check. On paper, they thought they met the requirements to become foster parents. They were wrong.

"Our letter denied us as foster parents and as adoptive parents. So they denied us both of even being considered for adoptive parents," Marsha Wells said.

Rita Bland is the program coordinator with the Wilson County DSS. She would not discuss the Wells' case, but she said being a model citizen is just part of the foster parent criteria.

"It's more than just love and shelter," she said. "Do we see them developing a relationship with DSS, the legal system, parents -- can they work towards our goals as an agency?"

The Wells said they have yet to receive answers to those questions.

They did offer that they filed a complaint with the state DSS about its handling of a case involving a 13-year old child who they thought was being abused. The Wells' believe they offended some people at the Wilson County DSS when they went over their heads about their concerns.

The couple, who have five adult children, said they saw a need for foster parents and volunteered their services. They said for now, they are relying on faith and each other.

"Prayers and holding each other and telling each other we're not bad people," Rev. Wells said.

Since there is no appeals process for new applicants, the Wells' only recourse is a lawsuit. The selection process is entirely up to the discretion of DSS.

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