The DSS Legal Division provides legal representation, counsel, training and support to the department. The Agency Attorney works with all agency areas providing legal interpretation of statutes, guidelines, policies and legal documents; advises on litigation and Human Resource matters; and represents the County or Agency in court. Ninety percent of the matters arise in four areas: Child Protective Services, Child Support, Adult Protective Services and Legal Training and Document Interpretation.
Child Protective Services:
The Legal Division provides support to Family and Children’s Services regarding abuse, neglect, and/or dependency situations involving the safety and welfare of the children of Haywood County. This includes, but is not limited to: petitioning the Court for custody and subsequent reviews of Foster Care cases, termination of parental rights and adoption proceedings. A tremendous amount of work is required in these matters, including filing of motions and notices of hearing, juvenile petitions and preparation of all orders entered by the Court. All Foster Care cases are reviewed in Court on strict timelines mandated by the North Carolina General Statutes and this requires diligent scheduling and tracking of Court reviews.
In this area, the Legal Division represents the IV-D Child Support Unit by preparing some of the legal documents such as court orders, pleadings and motions; coordinating with outside agencies; maintaining case files; and providing general administrative support. The Unit develops work methods and sequences under general supervision of the Agency Attorney including but not limited to attending each court session and prosecuting child support cases.
Adult Protective Services:
The Legal Division provides legal support for qualifying adults in Haywood County, petitioning the court when an adult lacks the capacity to consent and establishing protective services as needed. This Division petitions the court to review records and establish a Guardian of the Estate or Person through Article 5, Chapter 108A of the General Statutes, which was enacted to provide a mechanism for protecting the increasing number of disabled adults in North Carolina. Further, Legal may be required to verify the indigence of a person or to establish a Do Not Resuscitate order for someone that is on life support.
Legal Training and Document Interpretation:
The Agency Attorney trains staff throughout the Agency in the many legal aspects of Haywood County Department of Social Services’ duties as mandated by the laws of North Carolina. The Attorney works with all agents and interprets the law for them on a one-to-one basis.
Questions and Referrals:
All areas of the Agency should feel free to consult the Legal Division regarding preparation for court, interpreting documents or related matters, dealing with lawyers and court officials involved in cases. However, please do not refer an agency customer to the Legal Division unless the matter has been discussed with the attorney. In those cases, the attorney should be apprised of the circumstances, enabling him to best determine the most appropriate legal course for any future discussions with the customer.
For more information, contact Rachael Hawes, agency attorney, at 452-6620, ext. 2387; Cindy Way, child support, ext. 2383; Denise Zullig, Child Protective Services, ext. 2408; or Sheila Holden, Adult Protective Services, ext. 2355.