Social Services Blamed for Child Abuse One Girl Died

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Social Services Blamed for Child Abuse One Girl Died

Greensboro News & Record

Copyright 1993

Sunday, December 26, 1993



The Associated Press

A lawsuit filed on behalf of two Bladen County children
tortured by their foster parents targets the county’s Department of
Social Services.


Opponents trying to force him out are behind a lawsuit blaming Bladen County officials for allowing the continued abuse of two children, the head of the county Social Services Department said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Bladen County children tortured by their foster parents. It is the first public attempt to blame Bladen County’s Department of Social Services for allowing
the abuse to continue.

“I’m not worried about the truth hurting me,” social services director Charles Prince said. “The biggest thing that hurts me is the truth not coming out.”

The suit, filed last month in Bladen County Superior Court, concerns the case of Anne and Sylvester Phillips, who were convicted in 1988 in New Hanover County and sentenced to life in prison for the torture death of one of their adopted daughters,
11-year-old Tameka Phillips.

The defendants in the suit are Bladen County, Prince, and Anese Lee, a former social worker who visited the Phillips home before the murder. The lawsuit alleges that the visit should have alerted Bladen County officials to the abuse that was going on.

Testimony in the case described how Tameka was abused, bruised and wounded. A witness said Tameka was forced to eat red peppers and soap; her head was jammed in a toilet; she was beaten with fists, a lamp cord and a cooking pan; and once was hung over a door with a dog chain.

Angie Rhodes, a victim’s advocate for the District Attorney’s office in Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, is listed as the plaintiff in the suit, along with “John Doe” and “Jan Doe.” Rhodes was appointed guardian of John and Vera Phillips, who were adopted in 1984.

John Phillips, who was mildly retarded, died in 1991 after jumping from a van that was taking students to an activity. Vera Phillips will be 18 years old in February.

Rhodes is a member of the county’s Social Services board for whom Prince works. She joined the board during the summer, when it was trying to oust Prince because of the department’s failure to report and investigate possible child abuse and neglect cases.

At her first meeting, she voted to suspend Prince, who has kept
his job.

On Friday, Prince noted that the Department of Social Services is not listed as a defendant in the suit, but that he and a social worker were named individually.

“Isn’t that amazing?” he asked.

The lawsuit was filed by Fayetteville lawyer Wade Byrd. It is similar to one he filed in federal court in Chicago blaming the agency that placed the foster children in the Phillips home. Until now, that agency has shouldered all the blame for the Phillips case.

That suit names Anne and Sylvester Phillips as defendants, as well as individual members of Illinois’ state adoption agency.

Other court settlements against Illinois agencies already are bringing income to Vera Phillips and to John Phillips’ estate.

The lawsuit claims the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services allowed the Phillipses to adopt the children when it should have known that they had been accused of spanking their own daughter with a board until her buttocks bled.

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