DSS Director Testifies After Months of Questions

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - After months of waiting for answers from the top on trouble at the Department of Social Services, a senate subcommittee looking into the agency heard testimony on Wednesday from Director Lillian Koller.

Koller had a stroke over the holidays and hasn't been able to appear before the committee. Since it began meeting earlier this year, the list of questions about what's going on inside DSS and child deaths has grown.

Senator Joel Lourie (D-Richland) wants Koller to resign.

"If I thought that my resignation would save the life of even one child, the Governor would have my resignation," Koller said. "So, I respectfully decline to resign. I think our record is demonstrably one of improvement."

Much of Wednesday's testimony centered around the death of a 4 year old Richland county boy named Robert Guinyard Jr.

Previous Coverage: 'The System Failed Robert Guinyard Jr.'

Koller discussed changes since Robert's death during testimony that lasted almost four hours. Senators on the oversight committee say they've still got more to ask.

"I'm not necessarily convinced with all the answers we got," said Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) after the meeting.

Lourie, Shealy and Senator Tom Young (R-Aiken) says questions remain about Koller's leadership, especially in the case of Guinyard.

"Robert's case was very tragic," Koller said.

Workers who took calls about abuse didn't follow DSS protocol according to the director's testimony.

She says this year the agency plans to regionalize the call intake process.

In Robert's case, local workers took the calls about abuse. Koller says they failed to take repeat complaints about abuse in Robert's home seriously.

"If you regionalize, you're not going to know that about it. You're only going to know here are the allegations coming in on the call and if anyone of those 15 questions are answered yes - which in Robert's case it would have been answered yes - it has to be investigated," Koller said. "That's better for child safety."

Senator Lourie also has concern the agency has violated state statue over the last two years. Koller says she has documentation she'll provide to the committee that proves her agency is in compliance.

"You've got as high as 70% of children not being seen. Complete violation of state law. You've got cases not being closed in 45 and 60 days. Complete violation of state law. You've got counties that haven't had audits done in 6 years. Complete violation of state law. I'm not sure what other evidence we need," Lourie said.

The DSS director is a cabinet appointment and therefor Koller reports to the governor. After the testimony Wednesday, Gov. Haley issued a statement standing behind her appointment to lead DSS.

"Today I'm more frightened," said Paige Green who runs Richland County CASA, a group that advocates for kids in DSS care.

Green testified before the same Senate subcommittee earlier this year.

"I feel like there's still a lot of questions to be answered," she said.


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