Welcome To Swain County

Social Services

Adult Protective Services

Adult Protective Services helps ensure that elderly and disabled citizens live healthy, independent and productive lives free from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Protective Services provides an immediate, comprehensive assessment of abuse, neglect and exploitation reports. When substantiated, social workers quickly and appropriately intervene to protect the "at risk", abused, neglected or exploited individuals. They also give the individuals access to an entire continuum of care, services, and resources available. Adult Services helps meet this need through programs designed to promote independence, choice, and self-sufficiency. Services provided might be those to correct or prevent further abuse, neglect, exploitation or hazardous living conditions of elderly or disabled adults. In collaboration with other community agencies, Social Services staff work to protect disabled or elderly adults and ensure they are receiving appropriate care. It's the LAW to report any SUSPECTED forms of abuse.

  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Confusion
  • Hesitance to talk openly
  • Withdrawal/Avoiding Socializing
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Suspicious of paranoid behavior
  • Depression
  • Unusual and unexplained bruises, welts, fractures and burns. Look for stages of healing or a shape of an object such as a rope, belt, restraints or electric burner
  • Bed Sores, weight loss or dry skin and lips
  • Clothing inappropriate for weather conditions
  • Inadequate shelter or medical care
  • Confinement in a dangerous environment

Abuse is the willful infliction of physical pain, injury, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement or willful deprivation by a caretaker of services, which are necessary to maintain mental and physical health.

Exploitation Much Exploitation is the illegal or improper use of the disabled adult or his resources for another's profit or advantage.

Exploitation Indicators:

  • Unexplained withdrawal of money from bank accounts
  • Use of deceit, treachery or coercion to obtain money assets
  • Unusual interest by anyone in the disabled adult's assets
  • Difference between assets and lifestyle
  • Unusually large payment for services
  • Mismanagement of person's funds (failure to pay for essential services)
  • Inappropriate sexual activity

Self Neglect
When a disabled adult lives alone or has no caretaker and is not able to provide necessary services to maintain his/her mental and physical health.

Self Neglect Indicators:

  • Forgetting how to turn the stove on and off
  • Aimless wandering at night
  • Inability to cook, eat, take a bath, use the bathroom, dress or care for one's self
  • Unusual thinness or dehydration
  • Causing small fires
  • Existing in an unsafe environment
  • Inappropriate use of medications
  • Inability to communicate

Caretaker Neglect Failure of the caretaker to provide services necessary to maintain the physical or mental health of the disabled adult.

Caretaker Neglect Indicators:

  • Failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or attention to personal/situational needs
  • Failure to manage resources to meet needs
  • Failure to provide a safe living environment
  • Failure to provide adequate supervision
  • Failure of caretaker to provide or arrange for medical need

Do you have concerns about a disabled adult who is either living in the community or in a licensed facility?

Did you know that there is a law that was enacted in 1975 to protect disabled adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation?

Protection of the Abused, Neglected or Exploited Disabled Adult Act is located under Statute 108A Article 6.

This statute was initiated to protect the increasing number of disabled adults in North Carolina who are being abused, neglected or exploited.The statute requires that anyone having reason to believe that a disabled person is in need of protective service shall report such information to the director of the department of social services.

The Social Worker will ask numerous questions of you such as but not limited to adult's name, address, age/date of birth, Social Security number, family/collateral names, how is the person disabled, what are the allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

The questions asked are important to assure that all appropriate services are made available to the adult.

To accept the referral for Protective Services the information provided must state:

  • The adult is physically or mentally incapacitated.
  • The adult is being abused, neglected or exploited. If abused, the abuse must be by a caretaker.
  • The adult is in need of protection.

This specific criteria is important because Protective Services unlike other services provided by Social Services is initiated without the consent of the adult.

Once a referral is taken for Protective Services, a Social Worker will respond within 72 hours to respond to the case.

A Social Worker is responsible for assessment of the situation and determining the need for protection. The assessment includes evaluating six areas:

  • Physical health
  • Mental Health
  • Social Support
  • Activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living
  • Financial Support
  • Physical environment

During the course of the evaluation the Social Worker will talk with the adult, collaterals, and use whatever resources necessary to determine whether the adult is in need of protection.

It is important to note that at the end of the assessment the most basic tenet of Adult Protective Service is the right to self-determination. This means that as long as the adult can recognize the consequences of decisions they have made about their lives, their right to make those decisions must be respected. If the adult is unable to recognize the consequences of his decisions due to mental illness, mental retardation, Alzheimer's, dementia or other cognitive limitation and there is no other responsible party to protect the Adult the Agency is responsible for providing that Protection.


Adult Services Include:

  • Initial contact within 24 to 72 hours
  • Private Interview with Adult
  • Assessment of all functional areas of the adults life
  • Collateral contacts
  • Decision of need
  • A Protective Plan if required
  • Referral to Appropriate Service


Department of Social Services
80 Academy Street
Bryson City, NC 28713

Mailing Address
PO Box 610
Bryson City, NC 28713


Sheila Sutton, Director
Phone 828-488-6921
Fax 828-488-8271

Office Hours