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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.