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Interim SCDJJ director gets key approval from state lawmakers

Now that Eden Hendrick has been approved by the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee, she needs to be confirmed by the full Senate to officially take over.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A panel of South Carolina senators has given its vote of approval for Eden Hendrick to become the next director of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

In February, Governor Henry McMaster picked Hendrick to be the next director of the agency. Once she’s confirmed by the state Senate, she can officially take over.

RELATED: Acting director of DJJ talks about the future of the department

After about an hour of questioning on Thursday, the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee approved Hendrick to be the next director. Senator Rex Rice asked, "How long do you think you can maintain staying at DJJ?" Rice pointed to Hendrick's track record of moving around to new opportunities.

Hendrick responded, "I can say it’s going to take a long time to make change at DJJ.”

Hendrick became acting director of DJJ in September when Freddie Pough stepped down. Then, she became interim director. Hendrick told lawmakers she has already reorganized the agency and its programs.

RELATED: 'Dangerous tactics': Federal report details abuse of youth at DJJ facility

"We lost sight of the main goal, and the main goal is just providing those basic services: Social work services, psychology services, psychiatric services, group therapy, some of those basic things,"  explained Hendrick. "So, with the reorganization, I’ve changed the majority of the staff who are providing those services behind the fence.”

RELATED: Governor names Eden Hendrick as the next SCDJJ Executive Director

Senators questioned Hendrick on how she plans to improve youth experiences beyond safety and security. She said that she's focusing more on mental health services and expanding fun activities. "We have a staff youth flag football game at 1pm today, yesterday we had tie-dye day,” shared Hendrick.

When asked what she needs funding for, Hendrick said the Broad River Road facility has been over capacity by about 30 juveniles for months. “I’d say one of our greatest needs is maybe to expand capacity of that if we have to continue to house that many youth.” She said she’s also focused on hiring the right staff and improving family visitation.

Senator Greg Hembree told Hendrick that "the entire general assembly, the state of South Carolina is rooting for you.”

Hendrick will need to be confirmed by the full Senate before removing “interim” from her title. That confirmation could happen as early as next week.

RELATED: South Carolina's juvenile justice system could get major overhaul

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