Welcome To Swain County

Social Services

Child Protective Services

Child Protective Services aims for every child to have a permanent sense of belonging in a nurturing family that provides for good physical and mental health, a safe environment, a quality education, and hope for the future. For families in which child abuse or neglect has occurred, DSS works with other community agencies to provide a variety of services. The goal is to prevent further mistreatment and enable the child to remain safely in the home. When children are not able to remain safely with their families, they are placed with relatives or in foster care to assure their protection. Child Protective Services serves the community by providing for the safety and welfare of the children of our county. Child Protective Services is available 24 hours each day to receive reports of suspected child abuse, neglect or dependency and then to investigate such reports. If child abuse or neglect is determined the agency decides if a child has to be removed for his/her own safety or if there are ways to maintain the stability of the home for that child. Then a family may be provided services or foster care. It is our goal to be able to serve children within their family; removal is our last option.

Social services staff accomplish all these services through:

  • Assessing suspected cases of abuse and neglect
  • Assisting the family in diagnosing the problem
  • Providing in-home counseling and supportive services to help children stay at home with their families
  • Coordinating community and agency services for the family
  • Petitioning the court for removal of the child, if necessary
  • Providing public information about child abuse, neglect, and dependency

We esteem:

  • each child's need for safety, love, care, and the stability of a permanent family
  • the strengths and diversity of families and kinship networks
  • the responsibility of parents, families, and kinship networks to make decisions about their children and to care for their children
  • the responsibility of families and service providers to work together to meet children's needs
  • the responsibility of service providers to be proactive and discerning in ensuring positive outcomes for each child served
  • the enrichment of communities that occurs from a diversity of knowledge and experience
  • collaboration among professionals, paraprofessionals, community members, the family and its support systems to ensure that decisions are in the best interests of the child, family and community

N.C. law requires that local county departments of social services ensure children's safety in their homes. A child protective services investigative assessment determines whether abuse or neglect has occurred and whether other services may be needed to help the family.

How did my family get reported?
Any person in North Carolina who suspects that a child is abused, neglected or dependent can report this to the county DSS. By law, the identity of the reporter is confidential.

Why does DSS want to talk with me and my family?
DSS is required by law to conduct an investigative assessment when there is an allegation that a child is abused, neglected or dependent. This means that a social worker needs to meet with you and your family to determine if the allegations are true and if your child is safe.

What happens after a report is made?
An investigative assessment must be prompt and thorough to determine if protective services should be provided or the complaint filed as a petition in Juvenile Court. If the allegations include abuse, written notification must be made to the District Attorney and law enforcement to coordinate the investigative process.

Swain County DSS's goal is to partner with the family and complete investigations as quickly as possible without Court intervention unless your child cannot be protected. It is important to us that all different types of families are respected and that there is a broad range of lifestyles and parenting practices that provide safety and minimally sufficient care for children in our community.

What is involved with an investigation?
The investigation and evaluation shall include a visit to the place where the juvenile resides. An investigation means that a social worker looks at the environmental, medical, physical, mental health, educational and emotional needs that keep children safe. Other people with helpful information may be contacted for their input. Family input, resources and safety planning are very important in keeping children safe. Your cooperation and consent for the social worker to come into your home for the investigation helps this process. It is our goal to keep children safe and families together whenever possible.

Can I refuse to let the social worker into my home?
You must give permission for a social worker to enter your home. Social workers will show their identification and clearly explain why they wish to speak with you. They will tell you about the allegations and the process of an investigation.

For safety reasons, law enforcement officers typically escort social workers after hours and on weekends. Should you choose not to cooperate with an investigation, DSS may file an obstruction petition so that we may complete the investigation as required by law. If an obstruction petition is filed, a Court hearing will be scheduled no less than five days after the parent or caretaker is served with the petition and summons.

Our goal is to respect your rights and work with you to make sure your child is safe. DSS must comply with the law to ensure that children in our community are safe and provided with minimally sufficient care. We will work with you to assess family strengths, needs and supportive resources that are part of safety planning.

What is the purpose of the Safety Assessment?
The Safety Assessment is completed when the social worker first makes contact with the family. This form outlines safety issues and a plan to keep children safe during the investigation. If needed, the social worker will discuss with you any safety factors present and ask for your input in making a plan that is specific and detailed.

You have the opportunity to include your comments and your participation is important in developing this plan.

We believe that most families are capable of finding solutions that can preserve their family while making child safety a priority. It is our job to work with families and their supports to achieve these solutions.

What does it mean to place my children with a relative or other caregiver?
When the risk to your child is high and other means to protect are not reasonable, DSS may ask you to place your child with a relative to avoid the child(ren) from coming into foster care.State policy requires that a kinship assessment be completed in these cases, as well as a criminal background and child abuse/neglect check.

These placements can help avoid custody and give the parents an opportunity to address any safety issues needed to return the child home. These placements are intended to be short-term and can occur during the investigative process or while DSS is providing services after an investigation.

What happens after the investigation?
If abuse, neglect or dependency allegations are found to be true, then the agency provides services to the family with child safety as the goal. You will be notified in writing of the case decision once the investigation is completed. This should occur within 30 days.

A case decision of substantiation or in need of services means that there are safety and risk factors that could result in children being removed from the home without services to protect the child. There are some cases where risk to children is high and no safety planning or services can reasonably protect them. In these cases, DSS can file a petition with Juvenile Court alleging abuse, neglect or dependency or ask the Court to protect the child by removal from the home.

Bringing a child into foster care is used only as a last resort to protect children from serious harm. Reasonable efforts to keep children safely at home are first attempted, along with relative or kin placement if needed. Less than 8% of all children who have been substantiated as abused, neglected or dependent are removed from the home.


Department of Social Services
80 Academy Street
Bryson City, NC 28713

Mailing Address
PO Box 610
Bryson City, NC 28713


Sheila Sutton, Director
Phone 828-488-6921
Fax 828-488-8271

Office Hours