DSS Doesn't Request Workers Despite Case Load Concerns

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Senate Subcommittee over the South Carolina Department of Social Services once again heard story after story about failures inside the agency during a Tuesday hearing.

"We cannot continue to let children die in South Carolina and not do something about it," said Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington).

Shealy says the subcommittee wants more access to DSS records to see how many cases the agency has and the workload for case investigators.

"As of right now, we do have a problem within Richland County," said Michael Watts, who is a former DSS employee. Watts currently works for Richland County CASA, a group that advocates on behalf of children in protective custody.

"(There's) an abundance of possible safety issues with the lack of case workers we currently have at DSS," Watts said.

To emphasize the problems discussed by members of the committee, parents with tragic stories about DSS failures testified before the committee. They stressed issues with adoptions and child daycare centers, which in South Carolina are both regulated by DSS.

"What do you need to manage the case load more effectively? Are y'all coming to ask for more money for case workers?" said Senator Joel Laurie (D-Richland).

DSS Director Lillian Koeller was once again not present to answer the question, sending a prepared statement that said she's still recovering from a stroke. Koeller is scheduled to testify April 16.

"I think we're looking at that and making sure we have the right amount all across the state," said Jessica Hanak Coulter, a DSS deputy director who reports to Koeller.

"You heard me specifically ask the agency 'why have you not requested more case workers?' They have not made an additional request for case workers in four years and my response that I got was 'we're constantly reviewing that,'" Laurie said.

Subcommittee members say they're worried overloaded workers aren't able to meet the needs of the kids assigned to their care.

"Are we padding the numbers? That's something we're investigating. Are we making sure all the correct information is out there," Shealy said. "We've got to make sure the right information is out there and we know what's going on and correct it."

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