COLUMBIA — State senators want to allow the S.C. Department of Social Services to release details about suspected child abuse and neglect cases that the agency decided not to investigate.
The lawmakers also want to make sure coroners are reporting suspicious child deaths as they are required by law to do.
A bill that senators say, with a little more work, should accomplish both goals cleared a Senate panel Wednesday and is heading to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for review.
The proposal is backed by senators who are members of a panel tasked with reviewing claims that the Social Services agency has overlooked abuse cases that have led to child fatalities critics of Social Services say could have been avoided.
After hearing testimony about poor reporting of child deaths and allegations that Social Services overlooked children that were abused and later died, the senators asked the agency to respond with details about the cases.
"We wanted to know about those cases because we heard from the families," said state Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, and the chairman of the special Social Services oversight panel.
But Social Services officials said they were barred from discussing publicly cases where they found no cause for investigation.
The bill would change that, allowing Social Services to confirm, correct or clarify information about suspected child abuses cases that are made public by others.
Where cases have not been released publicly, Young said, the bill would allow Social Services to share that information with lawmakers in sessions that are closed to the public.
Young also wants to strengthen the law to ensure that coroners are reporting suspicious child deaths. While coroners are required under the law to report those deaths to the state, not all of them comply, he said.
The bill is one of several in the Senate and House aimed at improving the state's child-protection services.