Image credit: WRAL News

The harm inflicted on Priscilla Smith’s family by the Durham Department of Social Services was so excruciating that she hopes no other family ever has to endure the same pain. Smith, who now lives in Ohio, joined Emancipate NC at a press conference last week to call attention to her family’s harrowing story and prevent future trauma for others.

Smith’s grandson, who we will refer to as Z.S., was born prematurely and with disabilities in April 2020 to a disabled mother facing severe health challenges. Grandmother Priscilla Smith was but one kinship placement available for Z.S., so long as appropriate provisions for medical services could be made. But Durham DSS took custody of Z.S. in January 2021 and institutionalized him for over a year in a facility far from his family, before being forced to return him to his family and pay a cash settlement.

Babies do not belong in institutions. Institutionalization profoundly impacts their attachment and development. It was also profoundly cruel to Z.S.’s mother, who suffered extreme psychological distress at being separated from her baby.

We’re shining a light on the harm endured by the Smiths and so many other families at the hands of Durham DSS in an effort to force them to start actually keeping families together.

Read more about the press conference from WRAL →