Youth Empowerment Board members change after unreported child abuse

FOREST CITY — In a recent press release, Youth Empowerment Board Chair Nancy Womack announced new board members Sally Blanton, Leslie Brown, Edna Michael, Zuri Deyton, and Brenda King were inducted. These new members will replace DSS executive director John Carroll, JoAnn Woods, Jerry Wease and Jason Milks who all recently resigned.

While none of the former members will discuss their personal reasons for leaving the board, the Forest City Police Department is investigating not only an incident of child abuse, but also an alleged failure to report it by executive director Tracy Williams. Despite the photographic evidence of abuse, the executive director of Youth Empowerment, Inc. has been reported as colluding to conceal the incident from the authorities and the possible involvement of board member Karen Loftis.

As in all boards, the board is the accountable and liable body for the organization. Accountability means the board takes the responsibility of ensuring the organization follows the laws, behaves in an ethical manner, and does not waste the resources trusted in its care.  The board should have been notified at the time of the incident instead of two months later.

At the DSS board meeting last week, executive director John Carroll stated that his organization had followed the proper procedures and declined to discuss any details of the matter.

Everyone has a duty to report in cases where there is suspected child abuse and/or neglect by a parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker.  There are laws in NC that require that a report be made.

NCGS 7B-301(b) states that Any person or institution who knowingly or wantonly fails to report the case of a juvenile as required by subsection (a) of this section, or who knowingly or wantonly prevents another person from making a report as required by subsection (a) of this section, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. This law came into effect in October 2013.

In regards to neglected or abused children, the standard of knowledge is “any cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected or dependent”.

Reports are required to be made to the Director of the County Department of Social Services in the county in which the child resides. Reports may be made orally or in writing.

Youth Empowerment, Inc., located in Forest City, serves young people between the ages of 10 and 17. Its mission is to provide guidance, support, and life-skills for the youth and families of Rutherford County. The organization is also contracted to provide meals for children and adults during the months schools are not in session.

District attorney Ted Bell has stated that he has not seen the results of any investigation by the FCPD. Sheriff Chris Francis stated that this case was in Forest City Police Department (FCPD).

Neither the Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils who recently awarded $87,961 funding for the organization, Governor’s Crime Prevention Council, and executive director Tracy Williams, Department of Social Services, nor Youth Empowerment Inc. returned our requests for comments.