State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, wants to abolish the state’s welfare and child protection agency and rethink the way the state provides those services.
Shealy plans to pre-file legislation Wednesday, the first day that state senators can file legislation for the upcoming legislative session, she announced Monday.
Shealy says her bill would abolish the S.C. Department of Social Services, creating a new Department of Family Protective Services to manage the state’s child- and family-protective services, including child-welfare investigations and the foster care system.
Called the S.C. Child Welfare Reform Act of 2015, the other programs that Social Services currently manages – welfare and Medicaid, for example – will move to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
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“There is no denying the fact that our current system is failing some of South Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens, citizens who need our help the most,” said Shealy, one of three senators who have been investigating Social Services for about a year. The panel plans to recommend legislative changes to improve the state’s child-safety net when lawmakers return in January.
“That is not acceptable to me. That is why I have spent as much time as I have to draft legislation that will actually create solutions to problems, not just create talking points for politicians and talking heads.”
The change would “put the focus where the focus needs to be instead of putting it on something else.”
Social Services’ former director Lillian Koller resigned in June amid ongoing scrutiny of the agency’s child-protective services and the heavy caseloads child-welfare workers are shouldering.
Shealy’s bill also would establish education and experience requirements for child-welfare caseworkers, maximum caseloads, and minimum response times for caseworkers investigating abuse and neglect.
The bill also would create a statewide system for reporting neglect and abuse.
“As a conservative - I am committed to streamlining government, improving service to our residents and making government more efficient and effective,” Shealy continued. “This bill will accomplish all of these.”
Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, who serves with Shealy on the Senate DSS Overight Committee, also said he will back the bill to reform the state’s approach to delivering child-protective services.
“I wholeheartedly believe that this bill is exactly what is needed to reform services that have needed major reform for a long time,” Lourie said. “I commend Sen. Shealy for her work writing this bill; and I look forward to working hard to ensure its passage, so every employee at this agency will be concerned everyday about one thing and one thing only - protecting children.”