Angie Swartz Stephenson: Assistant Attorney General for North Carolina

By Steve Shenk | July 20th, 2015

Angie Swartz Stephenson

Angie Swartz Stephenson ’90 is employed by the state of North Carolina to represent the Child Welfare Section of the Social Services Division. (Photo by Randy Berger Photography)

Enforcing child-abuse laws and ensuring children are protected are among the daily job duties of Angie (Swartz) Stephenson ’90, an assistant attorney general for the state of North Carolina.

Recently, she helped negotiate an agreement with the Mexican Consulate in her state that would, among other things, re-unite Mexican and Mexican-American children with their families who are deported to Mexico. With this agreement, signed on March 25, North Carolina joins child-welfare systems in other states that have similar agreements in place with the Mexican Consulate.

Stephenson also represents the state in appeals by people who are convicted of assaulting children. In a recent case that was appealed to the state Supreme Court, she succeeded in keeping behind bars a man who abused his girlfriend’s daughter.

A social work major at EMU, Stephenson began to develop an interest in advocacy, and she thought about becoming a social worker and lawyer. “Professors Mary Jane Fox and Vernon Jantzi had a tremendous impact on me.”

After graduation, though, she returned to her native Oregon to work in community mediation and adult mental health. Then she moved to the island of Maui in Hawaii, where she took a job with the state as a child protective social worker. “I really enjoyed the work, especially the court involvement,” says Stephenson. “Some of my job duties included writing court reports, testifying in court, and interacting with attorneys and judges.”

After marrying Phillip Stephenson, she moved to North Carolina, where she was a foster care social worker until she entered law school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Eventually she enrolled in the school’s dual-degree program of law and social work, earning both JD and MSW degrees in 2003.

Following three years in private law practice, Stephenson found her dream job – a job that combined law and social work and gave her contact with social workers on a daily basis. In 2007, she became an assistant attorney general for North Carolina in the area of child welfare.

As a lawyer for the state, her client is the Child Welfare Section of the Social Services Division. She defends the division when it is sued or when someone contests a licensing action. She also advises her client and county departments of social services about child welfare issues.

“I do quite a bit of training, assist with federal funding issues, and work with a committee to revise the North Carolina statutes that govern child welfare,” she says. In addition, Stephenson represents the state on appeals of cases involving crimes against children.

In 2013, she was elected to a one-year term as president of the American Association of Public Welfare Attorneys, after serving as an officer for the two previous years.

“My job is a dream job because I am able to work in a field I care deeply about – child abuse and neglect – and it provides an opportunity to use both my social work and legal education,” she says.

At EMU, Stephenson’s roommate and best friend was Anne Showalter ’90, an attorney profiled on page 8. They even ran together to be co-presidents of the Student Government Association (unsuccessfully). Still friends, they live five miles apart in Chapel Hill.

Off the job, she enjoys time with her husband, 9-year-old son and two dogs. She volunteers with the Parent-Teacher Association at her son’s school and Carolina Border Collie Rescue.