It's a civil-rights issue," says attorney Lewis Pitts, director of Advocates for Children's Services. The petition points out that both federal and state laws deem foster-care stays of more than 450 days as potentially unhealthy for the children affected. "Unfortunately, our legal system still tends to regard children as property and objects rather than right-bearing persons. The outcome of our petition will reveal whether or not the children of Wake County are afforded the fundamental right of access to court in order to have a chance at securing services promised them by law."
Two weeks ago, County Attorney Michael Serrell's office responded by filing a motion to dismiss the petition on grounds that the foster records, by state law, are confidential, a move that Pitts describes as disappointing. "All we are doing is offering to provide free services to kids who have stayed in the system for far too long," he continues. "But I am confident the judge will not settle for form over substance and will look directly to the needs of these children."
A hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 30 at 9 a.m. in courtroom 4B of the Wake County courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend.