Waters: Problems at DSS deeper than letter lets on

April 20, 2014 

Tracey Waters

— Ken McBride’s assertion that children and families are faring better under the watch of Social Services Director Lillian Koller than they have in the past ignores the fact that too many children return to inadequate care and conditions ( “DSS working hard, smart to improve service,” April 4).

Reviewing the data required by Koller is akin to asking who won an election when only one candidate is on the ballot. There is extreme pressure on caseworkers to make those numbers seem successful. Perhaps there are programs that do indeed succeed, but when South Carolina is 45th in the nation regarding child welfare and children in South Carolina continue to be injured, abused, neglected and at times die, we must stand up as ethical human beings and say it is not good enough.

When Mr. McBride dismisses the “problems” at DSS, it’s hard to believe he is in tune to the reality that frontline caseworkers and paraprofessionals see daily.

Most caseworkers are wonderful and dedicated professionals, and protecting children is a very stressful job. But some simply are unsuitable for the demands of the job. This sort of disparity exists in most professions, but when the care and safety of children is at stake, the gap shouldn’t be as wide as it seems to be in DSS’ Child Protective Services office.

How can anyone feel that what is being done for the children in South Carolina is sufficient, knowing the tragic results of overloaded case management, low pay scales, adversarial management styles and a negative work culture?

To deny that DSS has problems is not only naive but flies in the face of what frontline employees say, what families say, what children say, what paraprofessionals say and what national data say. Yet Mr. McBride’s letter would have us believe that everything is OK at DSS, when we know better.

Mr. McBride is an advocate of the reports that give performance coaches the ability to “evaluate employees regularly to make sure they are equipped to meet the needs of the people we serve.” Shouldn’t that same philosophy apply to Ms. Koller?

Tracey Waters

Columbia

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