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Changes to Union Co. DSS after boy found with dead chicken around neck

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UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

Union County DSS has been under the microscope every since one of its supervisors was arrested for having a boy handcuffed to her porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

That was 8 months ago and when it happened the state came in to review the entire system.

Nearly two dozen people from Union County DSS have retired, resigned or were fired since the arrest of Wanda Sue Larson and her partner Dorian Harper last year. Another person was demoted.

Wanda Sue Larson was arrested November 2013. She was fired from her position as a supervisor a week later and some of her coworkers faced the same fate.

Along with Larson, five others received termination letters: Megan Long, Cynthia Dumas, Janet Curlee, Jennifer Rowland and Charles Durrah.

Durrah was let go due to "grossly inefficient job performance," according to his letter. The letter stated his actions frequently placed clients at risk of serious harm with the potential for death.

"Some of the people who are no longer here, I need to speak broadly with this, had trouble adapting to higher accountability," said Richard Matens, the Executive Director Department of Human Services in Union County.

Matens says a new state-approved plan raises accountability, pushes for workers to be proactive and transparent.

"There's a stated goal, there's action steps and there's progress to date," explained Matens.

An eight-page improvement plan lays out the goals for a system that came under fire when Larson was arrested.

There were questions about how DSS handled cases and whether kids were being put in danger.

"We have doubled the intake staff. We have four intake social workers, all they do is intake," said Matens.

The plan says they have more workers who can now file everything electronically. Richard Matens says they have changed the DSS culture.

"We started off with inconsistencies. We had to make sure there was accountability and people were following the law," said Matens.

Union County Commissioners reviewed the state approved plan and had no questions Monday about it. But the Justice for All Coalition has plenty of questions that were not addressed.

"This plan was asked for three an half years ago in February 2011, if Wanda Sue Larson doesn't get arrested. I don't know if we're meeting here tonight," said Jeremy Bess a spokesperson with the coalition. 

Bess questions why this wasn't this done years ago.

"There's six and half years where we know the system was broken what are we doing for those kids and the answer is nothing. I'd like to see a plan put together that moves backwards as well as forward," said Bess. 

I did ask Matens what happens to kids who were in the previously broken system. He says they have re-opened a couple of cases and will open others if new evidence is provided.

The state told Union County they will check on DSS plan's progress in six months.

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