Cherokee County -- A district court ruled after a Feb. 28, 2018, District Court hearing at the Cherokee County Courthouse in Murphy that the county’s Department of Social Services was forcing parents to sign unlawful documents.

The case has drawn a federal lawsuit and may now lead to criminal charges. Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press
Dozens of children in Cherokee County faced unlawful removal from their families until the state stepped in late in 2017, according to state officials and a federal lawsuit from affected families.
Now, the state Department of Justice is considering criminal charges against Cindy Palmer, the Cherokee County Department of Social Service’s former director, and possibly others. At the same time, the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the federal suit are seeking class-action status, alleging a series of rights violations against a potentially substantial number of families who were not identified in the State Bureau of Investigation’s probe of the situation.
For some parents, the county threatened to place their children in foster care unless they signed a document called a custody and visitation agreement, or CVA, the families’ lawsuit claims. Signing the agreement meant the threats from DSS would disappear, parents say they were told. But most parents had no way of knowing that the threats they were receiving and the documents they were being ordered to sign were “outside of law and policy,” according to the N.C. Department Health and Human Services. 
Two parents interviewed by Carolina Public Press this week said DSS workers threatened to take their children and place them into foster care unless they signed the CVAs, allegations that also appear in the lawsuit.
 

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