S.C. DSS Fails Federal Child Welfare Standards

This is just one state- I am sure there are others.

S.C. DSS Fails Federal Child Welfare Standards
Rick Brundrett

The Nerve

Written By: Rick Brundrett

The Nerve

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The S.C. Department of Social Services failed to meet all seven federal benchmarks measuring the agency’s ability to serve abused and neglected children, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.

A longtime Columbia children’s law attorney who was interviewed for the federal study called the results “pretty significant.”

“They (DSS) have a real hard time identifying the kids and families who truly need intervention, and the kids and their parents who could be left alone or left alone with some basic services,” attorney Jay Elliott told The Nerve when contacted last week.

Elliott, past chairman of the S.C. Bar’s Children’s Law Committee, said the federal report, known as the Child and Family Services Review, highlights the need to combine various state agencies that deal with children’s issues, including DSS’ Child Protective Services division and the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice, into one department.

Illinois officials last month announced that its juvenile justice department would merge with its Department of Children and Family Services, he pointed out.

“I think reorganizing the state’s child welfare system to create a department of children, youth and family services would go a long way to elevating the amount and quality of services to kids and their parents,” Elliott said.

Asked why DSS failed to meet the federal benchmarks, department spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus in a written response to The Nerve said South Carolina’s performance was not out of line with the results in other states, noting the report is based on two rounds of reviews.

“No state has passed all measures on the CFSR in Round One, nor has any state passed all of the outcome measures in Round 2,” she said.

Matheus referred The Nerve to the department’s initial prepared statement last month after the final report for South Carolina was released.

In that press release, the department acknowledged: “Despite concerted efforts by the staff of DSS and sister agencies and communities across our state, our child welfare system is falling short of what we believe it needs to do. Our state has not invested the resources it needs to meet the treatment, protection and prevention needs of families where children are at risk.”

Matheus told The Nerve that in response to the federal report, the department is “in the process of developing a Program Improvement Plan to address the areas needing improvement,” adding, “We are in the midst of negotiating the terms of that plan with the federal Administration for Children and Families.”

A spokesman for the federal agency did not respond last week to written questions by The Nerve.

Not in ‘Substantial Conformity’

The federal report on South Carolina’s child welfare program found that DSS was not in “substantial conformity” in all seven “safety, well-being and permanency outcomes.”

The study, conducted the week of July 27, 2009, was based on reviews of 40 foster care and 25 in-home services cases in Aiken, Beaufort and Greenville counties, along with interviews with parents, children, foster and adoptive parents, child welfare officials and others, the report said.

The seven benchmarks that DSS failed to meet were, according to the report:

•Safety Outcome 1 – “Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.”
•Safety Outcome 2 – “Children are safely maintained in their homes when possible and appropriate.”
•Permanency Outcome 1 – “Children have permanency and stability in their living situations.”
•Permanency Outcome 2 – “The continuity of family relationships and connections is preserved.”
•Well-Being Outcome 1 – “Families have enhanced capacity to provide for children’s needs.”
•Well-Being Outcome 2 – “Children receive services to meet their educational needs.”
•Well-Being Outcome 3 – “Children receive services to meet their physical and mental health needs.”
To be in “substantial conformity” in any given category, 95 percent of the applicable cases in that group must have been rated as having been in “substantial conformity with the outcome,” according to the report.

The department was given the lowest ratings in sub-categories dealing with adoption; assessing the needs of children, parents and foster parents; allowing children in foster care to visit with parents and siblings; family involvement in case planning; and caseworker visits with parents, the report said.

The report’s executive summary said DSS’ performance was “fairly high” in one category (meeting educational needs of children) and several other sub-categories, though it didn’t meet the overall benchmarks.

It also noted that the agency met five of seven benchmarks in another part of the study that dealt with its information, staff training, licensing and community responsiveness programs.

“HHS acknowledges the hard work and progress of South Carolina in making positive changes in its practice and enhancing services to children and families served by the child welfare system,” the executive summary said.

But Elliott said those observations should not downplay the seriousness of the report’s findings.

“To say, ‘We came pretty close in two or three areas,’ obscures the fact that overall they flunked,” he said.

Consistent Failure

DSS didn’t do much better in its last federal review in 2003, failing to meet benchmarks in six of the seven categories dealing with services to abused and neglected children, according to that report.

In a double dose of bad news, the department received the latest federal report on March 5, the same day the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in a groundbreaking opinion that S.C. DSS employees could be sued for not protecting children in foster care from mistreatment.

Elliott said part of the problem is that DSS caseworkers handling abuse and neglect cases typically are not licensed social workers, adding some of them have been transferred from other DSS divisions.

He also said although DSS Director Kathleen Hayes is “probably one of the most competent, skilled child welfare people in the country,” he believes she is not paying enough attention to the Child Protective Services division because she is “distracted” with dealing with the agency’s other large divisions, such as the welfare payments system.

Responding to those claims, Matheus said: “DSS has never wavered in its commitment to child protective services. Being a licensed social worker is not a requirement for DSS child welfare caseworkers. However, we are currently involved in a statewide partnership with all the colleges and universities in South Carolina that offer bachelor and/or master of social work degrees.”

On any given day, the agency oversees about 5,400 children in foster care and another 11,000 through family treatment services, the department said in a separate release.

Over the last fiscal year, the department cared for a total of 9,356 children in foster care and 24,713 children in family treatment services, the release said.

In calendar year 2009, the department received more than 28,000 referrals for child abuse or neglect, accepting 18,000 referrals for investigation involving more than 30,500 children, according to the release.

Abuse or neglect was found in about 7,000 investigations involving more than 12,700 children, the release said.

Preliminary department figures for last fiscal year show that 1,717 children statewide were waiting for adoption, including 677 children legally free for adoption.

As a comparison, there were nearly 100 fewer children waiting for adoption in South Carolina in fiscal year 2005, records show.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 779-5022, ext. 106, or rick@scpolicycouncil.com.

About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by Lulu.com October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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12 Responses to S.C. DSS Fails Federal Child Welfare Standards

  1. Pingback: DCFS probing abuse allegation in River Grove boy’s death | dress up bolg

  2. D Bouye says:

    I can’t help but wonder if SC DSS would’ve met the federal benchmarks, provided more quality training for their staff and/or provided better services to children and parents in South Carolina if they hadn’t had 5 million dollars stolen from their budget over the past few years.


  3. sheila says:

    I agree with them. DSS in South Carolina is taking children from homes that dont need to be taken!!!!! Look up how many mothers lost there child for stupid things due to SC DSS!!!! What if the mothers and Fathers HAD full Hard EVIDENCE? Would it be a money issue then??? no.


    • Tom says:

      I know there are cases where children are taken from their parents for stupid reasons. On the other hand I am very familiar with a case where after repeated reports from various individuals, nothing has been done. Recently, my grandsons mother and boyfriend left him alone (6 years old) in a house with various drugs on the table and loaded weapons. When she came home and saw the cops she and her boyfriend ran from the police. She is now out on bail and making decisions for her son with help from DSS. Instead of giving custody to my son, who has been fighting for custody for some time, they have moved him to three other relatives homes because his mother asks them too. The laws in SC do not recognize the rights of unwed fathers and the child is therefore being passed around at the whim of a drug addicted mother.


  4. sheila says:

    i would also like to say that for the Aurther of this site…..Thank you.


  5. P Y B says:

    I have had custody of my niece for 1 year and 8 months. She was taken from her mother’s home because of abuse and neglect. The mother refuses for her boyfriend to leave the home, even with a court order stating that he could not reside in the home nor could he have any contact with the said children. There are three children total. Two of the children have been placed back in the home. My niece went for visitation and the boyfriend was there, DSS was told of this and once again nothing was done. Now she starts her weekend visitations, and I am worried about what may happen. I can’t get any help, we are raising my niece with no child support from the mother, no assistance from DSS, the father pays child support through the courts, but I have no idea where that goes. NOT HERE! I am willing to keep her and we will raise her but I am tired of dealing with an organization that constantly puts children back in harms way, because they are for REUNIFICATION. Well the way I look at it, if the mother cared she would have the boyfriend out of the home, and she would focus on her children. These children deserve better.


  6. Jennifer Marconet says:

    Where do you look for help when your child has been taken for no reason? I have a son who is 13 and one night at 9pm when i was on my way home from work the police showed up found him home alone in a house with plenty of food and average mess. They called a relative to pick him up and directed them to let him have no contact with me, his mother until they heard back from them or DSS. The police did not even contact DSS for 1 week. There was nothing illegal in the house nor had they ever been there before. I have been in no trouble either. 3 weeks later the police took him out of school and put him in emergency protective custody because the relative called DSS and said she could no longer care for him. DSS or the police never made any attempt to contact me and would hang the phone up on me when i called them. My son is now in foster care after being molested by 3 older boys in a boys home. What can be done about this? I have no money for a lawyer and no idea where to go from here. His father even drove here from the other side of the USA to get him. They wont let him go with him either, said it would be about a year before they can make sure everything is ok where he lives. Any thoughts about what I could do would be truly appreciated.


  7. amber standard says:

    dss took my newborn twins after only being home 5 days saying i had a drug problem…after i passed a hair and urine test they still say i have an issue. The guardian ad litem hates me with a passion so therefore found it upon herself to bring her own lawyer to court today to fight for me not to get a treatment plan and termination of parental rights due to the fact that the foster parents want to adopt! Looks like a personal vendetta to me! I have family members that want the girls but havent been evaluated and thats not right! I have a hearing march 22 and cant afford a real attorney so the family court appointed one that has never did a dss case and her law firm ONLY handles work related cases! How is that fair..she tells me to shut up when i tell her something thats not right..she just flat out doesnt know what shes doing! I am doing a parenting class drug assesment and have an appt for a psycological evaluation without being court ordered because i am willing to do anything to get my babies back! I was told as long as i did everything dss wanted my babies would come home but that was a lie! I need help/advice and dont know where i can get it..if anyone has any advice PLEASE PLEASE let me know a?berstamdard@ymail.com i am desperate for any help thanks so much!


    • savannah says:

      This I have to say, is very sad and wrong. See they seek out the people who do not have very much knowledge about their rights, Once they open a case and you let them in they are trained to break you down , they are corrupt and may say they are there to help you and your family by getting or persuading you and in a lot of cases threatening you, which is one of their sick scare tactics! once you sign anything you are saying Im guilty and from there its a long, scary drawn out investigation which usually ends up in court, Its scary when you walk into that room and there is a room full of people ready to make false allegations and take the stand, and lie under oath. I read up on my rights when someone called on me and I was naive never had dealings with these people. I as well went along with all they said thinking i was doing right had nothing to hide, signed paper work about release of medical information, I had volunteered to take drug screens ,I passed them all. I never stopped fighting ever!The GAl, seemed to be on my side 100% well, when it went to court , that was not the case at all they ordered another hair strand test, I also passed that. Now 7 months later another investigator case worker showed up 2 of them, banging on my doors like the police, i seen them knew exactly what they were. I simply said leave if you dont have a warrant! I closed my door, they attempted to call the police. well it was a scare tactic.They went to my 7 year old sons school again. He is very smart, and has a lot of knowledge about them he does not speak to them, he knows how nasty they are, from the first time they spoke with him, he told the principle he did not want to speak with them, they had nothing to go on, so they came back to my home. I have not let them into my home, and since they see i am firm and know my rights and i know knowledge is power, they are the ones whom seem nervous. The case worker is in fact a student she is a year older than I am, I am 26 year of age, the other worker is showing her how to deal with people this is her first case,This sickens me. I am pregnant 9 days until my due date, This is a very high risk pregnancy I keep my cool the best i can they would love to get their dirty hands on my newborn baby.They ask questions like what hospital are you planning on going to.Well I as a u.s citizen I use my Miranda rights, I have the right to remain silent, anything I say or do can be used against me! So this time around im more than prepared , All it takes is a phone call and your family be ripped apart. Its so sad, I cant believe all the laws we have and these people get to do what ever they want to families and, when you seek an attorney, check them out good make sure they are not on their side! I have nothing to hide I am a full time mother of 3 and soon to be 4. .I have never been arrested, not ever even had a car accident. I am innocent of neglect or any harm toward my children, they are my life so i will fight this battle, i record all conversations, and video tape also,It is great to keep a journal , times dates, everything you do every day, on paper even down to what you may cook and whom you may speak to. You never know when you will need one of those notes to prove where you was on a certain date or time, they will and can make false allegations and abuse their power to the fullest! Last case worker had just transferred from a methadone clinic, which she upheld the drug/medication then, but when she started working with DSS she no longer upheld, helping people with the disease of addiction. I am angry they waist so much time, on people like me and there are kids out there, who genuinely need their support and help .They are victims but dss, turns a blind eye its sickening! its scary to know the power they think they have and actually take away babys and children for no reason! When will this stop?


  8. Michelle Martini says:

    My son and I are in need of help and came across this article. Can someone please direct me. Here’s the situation.I went to family court today to request an emergency custody review hearing and require a court appointed attorney. I was referred to legal services. I tried to leave the letter below, but the clerk wouldn’t accept it. I went to legal services who told me that I’d have to call to qualify and that it’d take up to 2 weeks to qualify. We will be evicted in 2 week and I cannot leave my son!!! I called legal services, but cannot get through. I’ve, also, contacted the guardian ad litem office. I am in need of an emergency custody review because:
    • I am unemployed, cannot support my family, and need to move out of state to live with my mom.
    • I will not have rent for October.
    • My son’s father has had at least 3 women sleep at his house with my son present and one is moving in this week.
    • Throughout our 7 years of separation/divorce my son’s father has taken advantage of the fact that I don’t have money for counsel and has made up his own child support amount that he has been paying. (DSS has already set a court date of November 2 for that).
    • My son doesn’t like to sleep one night at his dad’s house; he definitely doesn’t want to live there. Despite our joint custody on paper, his dad has allowed and sometimes insisted that Michael sleeps at home on nights that his dad had him.
    • If my son was forced to stay with his dad, he’d have to change schools anyway because Michael goes to school at Woodland in Greer and his dad lives in Simpsonville.


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