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WRAL reports that Amy Pridgen-Hamlett has been removed as head of Nash County Department of Social Services (DSS), effective immediately. This comes after two children died while in the department’s care.

The news was confirmed in a memo sent by Bill Hill, who heads the county’s Health and Human Services department.

“We are continuing to evaluate with our State partners and contractors the strengths within our agency and encourage you to continue the cooperation you have already displayed,” Hill said in the memo.

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Hill named Sarah Bradshaw as interim director until further notice. She will be responsible for all DSS responsibilities except for Child Welfare.

How Did We Get Here?

The state found welfare violations that occurred before the beating death of 8-year-old Christal Lane in February. Authorities charged the child’s grandmother, Patricia Ann Ricks, with first-degree murder and felony child abuse. A Nash DSS employee was fired after the state discovered the violations.

Six months later, 1-year-old Chase Hilliard, was severely beaten to death. His mother, Vonequetta Hilliard, was charged with his murder.

Nash DSS employees or law enforcement recommended the children be removed from the home in both cases. However, upper management did not approve the recommendations, returning the children to their guardians.

In July, County Commissioner Gwen Wilkins called for the removal of Pridgen-Hamlett, deputy director Shea Neal and program administrator Kimberly Nicholson.

Statement From Nash County DSS:

The Nash County Department of Social Services cannot release any information regarding the case mentioned without violating general statute 7B-2902 D3. While we cannot speak directly about this or any other case, Nash County Social Services is subject to NCDHHS guidelines for its operational policies and procedures.

Like other agencies across North Carolina, the department is also regularly monitored by the State, which includes the inspection and review of random cases from the agency to ensure that Nash County DSS is adhering to state and federal guidelines and utilizing appropriate practices when handling cases involving child protective services.

The department also falls within the purview of the Nash County Health and Human Services Board and regularly meets with this body in order to identify and respond to the health and human service needs that exist in our community.