Change needed in social service policy

By John Peters

February 26, 2014

Among the stories of a new city commissioner, a fatal wreck, a murder charge, and a host of other major stories over the past week, one which ran in Saturday’s Mount Airy News may have been overlooked.

The story, “Kids placed in home of convicted abuser,” is a harrowing tale of two children being sexually abused in Wilkes County and Yadkin County. What makes this story stand out from similar ones is that the children were sexually abused by their father and taken by social services, only to be put into a foster home where a convicted child abuser lived, and where the sexual abuse continued.

The two adults charged in the sexual abuse within the foster home are Randy Jay Galyean, who was charged with rape, and Tammy Renee Galyean, who has been charged with felony child abuse by the Yadkin County Sheriff’s office.

Incredulously, Tammy Galyean, then known as Tammy Renee Combs, was charged with felony child abuse in Surry County in 1994 and 1996, and a plea deal in that case let to her losing parental rights to her own kids and to being under a court order to not be left alone with children.

She later married Randy Galyean, and it is into their home that the Wilkes County Department of Social Services place these children after taking them from their abusive parents.

Predictably, Wilkes DSS officials are tight-lipped about the case, claiming the need for confidentiality. DSS officials have said they relied on the parents — one of whom had confessed to sexually abusing the children — in finding a foster home for the kids.

Relatives of the children said DSS officials knew of Tammy Galyean’s prior conviction. Wilkes County DSS Director William Bastian even told The Elkin Tribune that placing a child in a foster home where an adult has been convicted of child abuse is permitted under the department’s guidelines.


What else can be said to such a statement?

Children are among the most defenseless people in a community, and those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse are particularly vulnerable, and most in need of the best protection and treatment a community has to offer.

If that truly is the Wilkes County DSS policy, then we recommend state officials come in, dismiss all those who adopted such a a policy, and take over the department immediately.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican who serves as co-chair of the House Committee on Onmibus Foster Care and Dependency, expressed outrage when learning of the case.

Unfortunately, she’s running into some of the same “circle-the-wagon” mentality that we have been, where the Wilkes County DSS appears more intent on avoiding blame than in addressing what would seem to be criminal negligence on their part.

“…We were getting a little bit of runaround (from DSS) on confidentiality rules and personnel rules, as well as law enforcement,” Stevens said about the case. “We understand the need for all of these privacy laws and policies, but we don’t want to see anyone hide behind those policies either, and that’s what’s happening.”

She said that county departments of social services develop and maintain their own set of child placement policies. While we generally think smaller, local government is better, it’s clear the Wilkes County Department of Social Services is incapable of looking out for the children in its care.

And it’s not the only such department. Last week Stevens was in Raleigh discussing a case in Union County where a DSS worker and foster mom has been charged with child abuse after a child left in her foster care was found handcuffed to her front porch.

We wonder how many other cases like this occur across the state, never being discovered?

Stevens said she expects “changes to policies at the highest level,” and we believe those changes can’t come fast enough. While local social service officials in various localities will complain about the state overreaching and getting too involved in local departments, it’s clear someone needs to step in and watch out for these children. Because, at least in Wilkes County, no one there is.