The case of Wanda Larson, the now-former social services supervisor in a Charlotte suburb who, by all accounts, abused five children under her care and made them live in disgusting conditions, took a ghastly turn this weekend. WRAL-TV in Raleigh reports that several teachers at the kids' former school were concerned enough about how Larson and her live-in boyfriend, Dorian Harper, were treating them that they reported their concerns to state officials. But apparently that complaint disappeared into the rabbit hole.
Bob Goodale, a former corporate executive and deputy secretary of the state Department of Commerce, said Friday that he's "appalled" by the allegations, especially because he tried to alert state officials to possible abuse more than a year ago.Watch the full piece here (sorry, it won't embed).
Goodale's daughter is a teacher at Union Academy Charter School in Monroe, where the boy attended, and she contacted him for help because of his connections in state government.
She said she and other faculty members noticed the boy and the other children living with Larson and Harper were continually dirty and hungry, and they worried about child neglect, especially after the children were pulled out of Union Academy to be home-schooled.
Teachers didn't know where to turn, she said, because Larson worked in the Union County DSS office.
"The problem was this was a DSS employee in the key job," said Goodale, who lives in Raleigh. "Where was the state DSS?"
WRAL News obtained an email chain confirming that Goodale contacted the state Division of Social Services about the Union County case, but there's no indication that the state ever followed up with the Union Academy teachers.
According to a spokesman with the state Department of Health and Human Services, SOP calls for any complaints about child abuse to be forwarded to the county where the suspected abuse is occurring. Obviously that protocol wasn't followed.
For those who don't know, this came to light earlier this month, when an 11-year-old boy for whom Larson and Harper were legal guardians was found chained to a patio in mid-20s weather with a dead chicken around his neck. When sheriff's deputies arrived, they found feces on the floor, no running water and other appalling conditions. The stink there was so bad that it was still there the following Sunday, even though no one had been at the house for 48 hours. The boy's biological relatives had complained numerous times about how he was being treated, to no avail. At least one time, he'd been seen going around the neighborhood begging for food. According to an indictment handed up last week, the boy was subjected to grisly abuse between August and November--including having his face cut with a knife and burned under his eye, and permanently injuring one of his fingers. Harper was the primary abuser; Larson is accused of failing to report it.
And if this story is accurate, this all could have been prevented, because had the state followed up on it and had this been investigated, those kids could have been out of there a year ago. In what seems to be a major understatement, Goodale thinks that this whole affair will lead to broader reforms in North Carolina's child welfare system. One thing's for certain--heads need to roll.