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Our Social Workers investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. With the goal of keeping families united, social workers connect family members to community resources and treatment services. Higher risk families may receive additional case management services. In some cases, temporary substitute care is provided to children in out-of-home settings which may involve permanency planning and adoption services when necessary.

Child Protective Services

Reports of abuse and neglect of children under the age of 18 are assessed with the goal of protecting children from physical and sexual abuse and neglect.  Child Protective Services is a mandated program and accepts reports of suspected abuse or neglect.  Child Protective Services is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect

North Carolina has a mandatory reporting law (N.C.G.S. 7B-301) that states that any person who suspects that a child has been abused, neglected, or dependent shall report that to the Department of Social Services. This law covers children under the age of 18, who are not married, emancipated, or in the armed services.

During normal working hours, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday, you may make a report by calling the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Social Services at 252-475-5500 and tell the receptionist that you would like to make a CPS report.  After 5:00 pm nights, weekends, and holidays, please call Dare Central Communications at 252-473-3444 and tell the dispatcher that you would like to make a CPS report. If it is an emergency, please call 911.

Provide as much of the following information as possible when calling in a report of suspected child abuse or neglect:

  • Name of child who is the alleged victim

  • Age of the child

  • Home address or address where the child can be reached

  • Parent’s names, telephone numbers, and addresses, if known

  • Type of suspected abuse

  • Alleged perpetrator, if known

  • Specific physical and behavioral indicators of maltreatment

While reports may remain anonymous, knowing the name and phone number of the reporter allows Child Protective Services to obtain additional information.  If necessary, the social worker taking the information for the report will ask for as many details about the maltreatment as the reporter is able to provide.

DO NOT use email to report suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect.  It causes delays and confidentiality may not be ensured.

What happens after a report is made?

Reports are assigned to either a family assessment response or an investigative assessment response.  The response to a report may be immediate, 24 hours, or 72 hours.  If the allegations include abuse, written notification must be made to the District Attorney and law enforcement to coordinate the investigative process.

The goal of the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Social Services is to partner with the family and complete assessment as quickly as possible without Court intervention unless your child cannot be protected. It is important to us that all different types of families are respected and that there is a broad range of lifestyles and parenting practices that provide safety and minimally sufficient care for children in our community.

What is involved with an assessment?

The assessment shall include a visit to the place where the juvenile resides. An assessment means that a social worker looks at the environmental, medical, physical, mental health, educational and emotional needs that keep children safe. Other people with helpful information may be contacted for their input. Family input, resources and safety planning are very important in keeping children safe. Your cooperation and consent for the social worker to come into your home for the investigation helps this process. It is our goal to keep children safe and families together whenever possible. For more information see the In Home Services page.

What is the purpose of the Safety Assessment?

The Safety Assessment is completed when the social worker first makes contact with the family. This form outlines safety issues and a plan to keep children safe during the assessment. Sometimes there are no safety factors that make it necessary to develop a safety response. If needed, the social worker will discuss with you any safety factors present and ask for your input in making a plan that is specific and detailed.

There may be family members or other supportive people who can help be part of safety planning for your child. You have the opportunity to include your comments and your participation is important in developing this plan.

We believe that most families are capable of finding solutions that can preserve their family while making child safety a priority. It is our job to work with families and their supports to achieve these solutions.

Who is a safety resource?  Can I place my children with a relative or other caregiver?

When the risk to your child is high and other means to protect are not reasonable, the social worker may ask you to make a plan with a safety resource, an appropriate relative or very close family member, to avoid your child from coming into custody. For this reason, the social worker always asks about relatives or friends who could provide care for your child. State policy requires that a kinship assessment be completed in these cases, as well as a criminal background and child abuse/neglect check.

These placements can help avoid a child coming into the department's custody and give the parents an opportunity to address any safety issues needed to return the child home. These placements are intended to be short-term and can occur during the assessment process or while the social worker is providing services after an assessment.

What happens after the assessment?

A case decision is made at the end of the assessment. A decision of Services Not Recommended, Services Recommended, Services Provided or In Need of Services is made for family assessments and a decision of Unsubstantiation or Substantiation is made for investigative assessments.

A case decision of substantiation or in need of services means that there are safety and risk factors that could result in children being removed from the home without services to protect the child.

There are some cases where risk to children is high and no safety planning or services can reasonably protect them. In these cases, the agency may file a petition with Juvenile Court alleging abuse, neglect or dependency or ask the Court to protect the child by removal from the home.

Bringing a child into foster care is used only as a last resort to protect children from serious harm. Reasonable efforts to keep children safely at home are first attempted, along with relative or kin placement if needed. We believe that children have the right to safety, basic care and to remain with their families whenever possible.

Family In-Home Services

In-Home Services are legally mandated and provided to families who have had a substantiation of abuse, neglect or dependency or a finding of in need of services due to safety issues. The goals of these services are to maintain the safety of children; to strengthen the family's capacity to protect and nurture its children; and to maintain children in their own families.

What Can I Expect?

Within seven days of the decision to substantiate or find in need of services, the Assessment social worker and an In-Home Services social worker will contact you to discuss the case decision and introduce the new worker.

This In Home Services social worker will have face-to face contact with you and your family regularly, as well as contact with others involved, i.e., therapists, doctors, other family members, to assure progress toward the treatment goals is continuing. The focus of an In-Home Services worker's efforts is to always ensure protection of the involved children and the preservation of the family.

What Are The Possible Outcomes of In-Home Services?

If you actively participate and change the behaviors which posed risk to your child(ren), the family In-Home social worker will close your case. However, if the risk factors are not reduced or you refuse to cooperate, a Child and Family Team will be called to discuss options that may include filing a petition with juvenile court to ask a judge to order that certain things be completed to assure child safety. This does not always mean that children are removed from the home. In a very small number of cases, the child(ren) may be placed out of the home, either voluntarily or by the Department's petitioning of the Court. We want children to remain with their families and that will be the focus of our work together.

What Can I Do To Help The Process?

Allow the In Home Services social worker to come to your home.

  • Keep all scheduled appointments.

  • Discuss any concerns you may have reasonably and calmly.

  • Work with the In-Home Services worker to develop the plan for your family.

  • Understand that the In-Home Services social worker will be working with you to preserve your family and strengthen it as a unit.

Foster Parenting

Our Foster Care program is a child welfare service which provides substitute care for children when their own family or legal custodian cannot care for them. Foster care is a temporary arrangement to provide children with consistent care by substitute parents until reunification can be accomplished or another permanent plan, such as adoption, is possible.

We are in need of foster families to provide temporary homes for children who enter the Department of Social Services care. The children who enter foster care are of all ages, from infancy to age 18. Many of them are troubled and will require services such as mental health therapy, developmental services and possibly other services as well.

Individuals and families who are interested in becoming foster parents will be interviewed to discuss the program in detail and the skills and abilities needed to meet the special needs of the children in our custody. Once suitable candidates are determined, and the prospective foster parents wish to continue, training and the remainder of the licensing process will be provided. Requirements include 30 hours of training, fingerprinting and background checks of all adults in the household and other requirements pertaining to health and the home.

Please contact our office at 252.475.5500 if you would like to learn more about foster parenting.


Independent Living

A child may remain in foster care until the age of eighteen, if adoption or other permanent plan is not seen as an option. Teens in foster care receive LINKS services to assist them in preparing for their future. Youth in foster care may voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Department of Social Services to continue receiving support and services until they are 21 years of age, while they pursue educational or vocational training. Life skills are taught to help the youth prepare for and adjust to adulthood. For additional information about the LINKS program, please visit


Our children available for adoption are generally considered special needs. Most have been abused or neglected and have spent varying times in foster care. The North Carolina Division of Social Services maintains an online registry of all the children in the state’s foster care system waiting for an adoptive home. Persons wishing to adopt a child from foster care must attend 30 hours of training provided by our staff.