Local mayor denied foster care, claims retaliation by DSS

by: Peter Daut Updated:

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UNION COUNTY, N.C. - Retaliation and intimidation are words the mayor of Indian Trail is using to characterize a letter sent to him by the Union County Division of Social Services. He said the agency will not allow him to become a foster parent after he publicly questioned a high-profile abuse case.

"It's personal, it's vindictive and it's out of line," Michael Alvarez said.

Alvarez and his wife were in the early stages of trying to become foster parents, but in the letter, the agency wrote it will not license the mayor's home, "due to the public comments made," since "it would be difficult for us to work in partnership."

In November, Alvarez urged county commissioners to investigate all DSS cases handled by former supervisor Wanda Larson, after police said an 11-year-old boy in her care was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

DSS declined to speak on camera, but in an email response to Eyewitness News about the letter, said in part, "This partnership must be a positive one… Foster home licensure is a privilege, not a right."

Alvarez believes the agency's decision was motivated by politics and hurt feelings.

"'Just don't question me.' That's all that says. 'Don't question me,'" Alvarez said.

Meanwhile, the father of two said he will continue to try to become a foster parent, even if that means working with another county.

"Many children need families," he said.

Alvarez said he plans to meet with state lawmakers soon about the letter.

You can read the Department of Social Services letter here.

Below is the complete Union County Department of Human Services response to Eyewitness News:

"Our policy is not to comment on any specific case. It was the decision of Mr. Alvarez to share the contents of the letter he received with you. Speaking in general terms, however, part of the State’s application form delineates 12 skills that are to  be demonstrated by the applicant family. One of the skills is to be able to be a partner with the licensing agency. This partnership must be a positive one in achieving permanence for the child. Foster home licensure is a privilege not a right.  We tell inquirers from the beginning that it is a mutual selection process, meaning that the family and the agency both agree to pursue licensing the family.  We are not required to pursue licensure with any family and there is no appeals process.  That changes once the family is licensed.

The Department of Human Services makes no decision based on intimidation or political retribution. People come to us all the time to expires their concerns about the services being provided, and we continue to work with them. Each licensing application case is determined by a six-member licensing panel composed of social workers and licensed clinical social workers. They are the experts in determining licensure for foster parents. I stand by their decisions, even the most difficult ones."