Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Whoever gets the DSS Director job will have child advocates watching closely and in some cases, hoping for change.
One of those groups, the Citizen Review Panel, is a volunteer group of child advocates who have access to DSS cases and policies and make recommendations on changes.
While the group never called for Director Lillian Koller's resignation, they say the former director's policies have to change for children to be safe. Previous Coverage:DSS Director Lillian Koller Resigns
"We feel like we have done everything that we can, and have asked repeatedly for things to change, and they haven't changed. Not really. Not enough or not really even at all to keep kids safe," said Donna Xenakis, chair for the Low Country Citizen Review Panel.
Last year the panel began calling attention to the Community Based Prevention Services program at DSS, where less serious cases are handed off to local non-profits and not investigated by the agency.
The CRP asked for fewer cases to be handed off, and wanted DSS to always investigate cases involving children under five years old.
Despite letters to DSS and emergency policy change recommendations, DSS declined to make the review panel's suggested changes.
"So basically the answer to everything that we recommended that we believe will keep children safe was not taken well," Xenakis said. "We strongly feel children are not safe in this program and we really hope the new director is going to take a sincere look at that."
The panel said they never met face to face with former Director Koller and only corresponded with her by mail.
Deputy directors met with the panel in meetings every other month.
Xenakis says transparency between the two parties was strained.
"We have tried very hard, and will continue to try very hard, to work with DSS to make improvements and make recommendations, and hope that they will listen and take us up on some of the things that we say," Xenakis said.