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Reorganizing Cherokee Social Services

Updated: Tuesday, February 25 2014, 07:10 PM EST
The death of a little girl three years ago is providing much of the motivation behind Cherokee reorganizing its social services.

In 2011, Aubrey Littlejohn died.  An investigation found she was neglected, left in soiled diapers, had an untreated broken arm, and died with a body temperature of 84 degrees. Family members say Swain County DSS didn't do enough to protect her. Swain County social worker Candice Lassiter pleaded guilty to attempting to cover up the agency's role after Littlejohn's death.

"There are a lot of situations out there where we see better care, more attention, more passion and compassion should have gone into the care of children," says Eastern  Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Michell Hicks.

Tribal leaders are now restructuring its medical division into a Health and Human Services Department. In turn, it will take over child protective services from surrounding counties.

"So that we could provide a more comprehensive integrated service to give what we feel like a better service because we know our people," says Cherokee Public Health and Human Services Deputy Health Officer Vickie Bradley.

Littlejohn's family says Cherokee will do a better job.

"And more people are going to be willing to take care of our own, I think because it's going to be our own people looking after them," says Littlejohn’s Great Aunt Ruth McCoy. "Our family is hoping when the facility gets set up or where it's going to be that it will be named after Aubrey."

"I'm glad that it's happening you know. We need to take care of our own kids," said Karen Swayney. Littlejohn’s great-aunt .

The reorganization will take a year to year and a half. All social services for adults and children will be centralized in one location. A director is expected to be named this week, and the director will decide how many people might be hired.

By Rex Hodge
Follow Rex on Twitter @RexHodgeWLOS

Related Links:
Social Services ReorganizationReorganizing Cherokee Social Services

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