The S.C. Department of Social Services’ problems — including the deaths of several children — culminate from poor decisions made by management. When faced with budget cuts, the agency opted to hire less credentialed personnel, shifting away from trained social workers in favor of generic “case workers.” While this saved money (not as much as you would think — social worker salaries are not high), it led to a paraprofessional work force.
Every day, DSS staff make life and death decisions for children and families — many with complex, complicated needs. With caseloads as high as 70, workers are asked to do the impossible, without the training, supervision and support they need.
When testifying to the Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee, former Director Lillian Koller stressed “best practices,” yet this has not been a priority for DSS. Best practices would mean credentialed, licensed staff, manageable caseload sizes and strong clinical supervision, resulting in quality staff with minimal turnover.
Our Legislature and executive office have put a high priority on “less government.” But at what cost? As Nelson Mandela once said, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
It’s time DSS invested in skilled, well-trained, supported workforce — in the form of licensed, specially trained social workers — to help our most vulnerable. I can think of no better investment. Can you?
National Association of Social Workers-SC