Art by Dawn Blagrove

In September, Emancipate NC and Thrive Tribe NC released a comprehensive report on the pressing need for child welfare reform in Durham County. We urged the county to collaborate with all community stakeholders – including parents, children, social workers, guardian ad litem volunteers, and attorneys – to further a shared goal of keeping families safe together whenever possible. 

Our goals are based on new federal law and overwhelming professional consensus that resources should be used to stabilize families of origin, rather than used to separate children from their parents and then pay non-kin to provide substitute care. 

As part of the report, Emancipate NC requested basic data from Durham County about the age, race, and number of children separated from parents in the foster system, the average length of time to achieve reunification of families, and the age, race, and number of children adopted. These are all numbers that Durham must track. However, Durham declined the public records request, stating it had “no records” in its possession. It also ignored a parallel public records request that the Durham Department of Social Services publish its Board minutes from May 2022 to present. These minutes are missing from the public website.

To force Durham to comply with its duty of transparency with the public, Emancipate NC has filed a lawsuit in Durham County Superior Court under the Public Records Act. Public agencies may not shield their operations from public scrutiny. Our community deserves to be informed about these important topics. 

Read the lawsuit here