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Questions around fired DSS supervisor's reports used in active cases

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UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

A former DSS supervisor sits in jail accused of child abuse, but the work she oversaw is still in the system.

Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper were arrested in November when a deputy rescued a boy who was found handcuffed to the couple's porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

Now, there are serious concerns about the other children Larson was caring for, the DSS cases she was overseeing and the entire system designed to protect kids in Union County.

When child protective services supervisors Wanda Sue Larson was arrested the Union County community was outraged.

"Then logically the thing to do would be to review all of Wanda Sue Larson's cases.  If any red flags are raised by all means re-open these cases," said Jeff Gerber with the Justice for All Coalition.

Richard Matens became the executive director of Union County Department of Human Services in June. He said he invited the state to come in after Wanda Sue Larson was arrested in November.

"I know there was concern being called for looking at Ms. Larson's files. That wouldn't be an appropriate allocation of resources," said Matens.

Matens said the state has helped the Union County's Department of Social Services make changes and randomly looked at some of Larson's cases.

"We are looking at all our cases to make sure they are the best possible. Even those that are in the court system right now," said Matens. 

The Justice for All Coalition said it has identified at least a dozen cases that are in the Union County court system right now that are using reports signed by Larson as evidence.

"If there was a significant concern on any particular case we would have stopped it," said Matens.

Matens said Larson supervised of five to seven social workers.

"So, it's not just her work that's in there. She may be the one signing off on them because it's her front line staff but that case is brought to a group of supervisors," explained Matens.

He also said in regards to Larson, "We need to differentiate between Ms. Larson's personal life and her professional life."

Even though DSS is under heavy scrutiny and problems are being fixed Matens said those old reports should not hold up court cases.

"We feel confident that anything that is in process at this point has been vetted and will continue to be vetted if there's another problem," said Matens. 

Matens also said if people want a case re-opened they can ask. He can't respond to a blanket statement about a dozen possible cases.

"If an individual has an issue with their case a specific concern that something was not covered or there's new evidence that needs to be there we've encouraged them to contact their social worker on that," said Matens, "If that call comes in, we'll do an internal review on that case." 
When Matens was asked, "Some would argue that an investigation needs to happen. And what do you say to someone, you're policing yourself?"

He responded, "No, we have the state coming in. We are not policing ourselves. We invited them to come in."

As for the state review, Matens said the state ordered Union County DSS to reopen one case.  The state also asked them to review a handful of other cases to determine if they will need to be reopened.

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