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Union County To Dissolve Health Board After Child Abuse Case

Union County commissioners will move to dissolve the board that oversees the county’s Division of Social Services, according to one commissioner in a series of Youtube videos the county released today. The change would come as part of the county's response to the high-profile child-abuse case earlier this month, where an 11-year-old boy was found handcuffed by the ankle to his front porch. One of the guardians of the child, Wanda Larson, was a supervisor for Child Protective Services, which is part of the division.

Commissioner Jonathan Thomas says, even though he is proposing to dissolve it, the board has done its job.

“The board is working, but the public is losing confidence in the Division of Social Services,” says Thomas. “When we’re getting into this era where we are now, where people are finger-pointing, the last thing we need to be doing is pointing fingers at a volunteer advisory board that has no authority to move forward on personnel.

Thomas also says he wants to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, since some members of the advisory board worked with Larson.

Commissioners created the advisory board earlier this year specifically to give them more direct control of county health and human services. Prior to that, health and social services were in different departments overseen by independent boards. Richard Matens, the executive director of the consolidated Human Services department said in a separate county video that the county lacked oversight until this consolidation.

"In fact, one of the driving factors to the county commissioners decision to form a combined human services department [was] to gain this authority," Matens said. "The county recognized that there was a disconnect in program oversight in the previous construct for [the Department of Social Services]."

Thomas will recommend dissolving the board at its first meeting in December, on Monday, with the intention of voting early next year.