Richland County DSS head leaving job

rlowe@thestate.comJune 12, 2014 

Elizabeth Stroup

COLUMBIA, SC Elizabeth Stroup, director of the Richland County office of the troubled Department of Social Services, will be leaving the post she has held for just over a year, DSS confirmed Thursday night.

Stroup took over the office May 5, 2013, and stepped into the middle of a firestorm of criticism over whether her office has been staffed at levels needed to handle the number of child protective service referrals in the county.

Three months after she took the reins in Richland County, 4-year-old Robert Guinyard Jr. died at the hands of his parents. In May, Courtney Thompson, 25, and Robert “Antonio” Guinyard Sr., 29, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

During the trial, the state Department of Social Services came under intense scrutiny as family members, friends and doctors told of begging DSS to intervene in Robert’s case, but to no avail.

As Robert was tortured to death by his parents, the SC Department of Social Services, which by law is supposed to intervene when receiving reports of child abuse, didn’t do its duty, 5th Circuit assistant prosecutor Luck Campbell told the jury.

Robert Guinyard Jr.’s death was just one of many that became the focus of a state Senate panel investigation into DSS management under Lillian Koller who was appointed to the post by newly-elected Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011.

The panel heard from child advocates, parents, coroners and former Social Services employees who criticized the agency for workers’ heavy caseloads, a lack of transparency in providing information in child death investigations, and for missing abuse in cases of children who later died.

Koller resigned June 2.

In an email Thursday night, DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said that Stroup is returning to York County for a position with the DSS Intensive Foster Care and Clinical Services program. She will remain on the job in Richland County until her successor is chosen.

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