Columbia, SC (WLTX) South Carolina's Department of Social Services is now working with an outside consulting firm to try to improve its communication and the services it provides children and families. The Clarus Consulting Group is conducting focus groups, interviews, and surveys with employees and clients.
"This is an opportunity for us to listen to our internal, our staff, and our external, our community, our providers, our clients, about what we're doing and how we're doing it and just listening to their voices and understanding what their concerns are, how they see us doing our work and how we can get better," says Malik Whitaker, a regional director at DSS.
The consulting work is not costing taxpayers any money. It's being paid for by Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest foundation focused on reducing the need for foster care. It's been working on children's issues for decades.
The work has become an issue in the South Carolina governor's race, after Democrat Vincent Sheheen said Gov. Nikki Haley had brought in an outside PR firm to cover up the problems at the agency. A special state Senate subcommittee has been investigating DSS over children who've died after DSS involvement, and why DSS employees are often handling more cases than recommended.
But Whitaker says, "It's not about trying to do any kind of PR. PR's the wrong word to use for this. This is about listening, understanding what's going on, understanding how the work is being received and then figuring out what we can do to get better, and what's working well."
He says the work will be done by the end of the year.