The Sunday editorial (“Splitting up DSS shouldn’t be first option”) left the impression that my proposal to split the Department of Social Services was a whim, that no thought was put into this option. I have looked at many options, and this was not the first, but it was the one that made the most sense. Without creating a new state agency, which would cost the taxpayers more money, it divides an agency that is overburdened with financial issues on one side and out of control with high caseloads and lack of supervision and leadership on the other side.
Anyone who has visited a DSS county office would note that the financial side of this agency and the family protective services are in most cases already handled separately. Anyone who paid attention also would know that every state except South Carolina has managed to meet the federal requirement to operate a statewide computer program to handle child support enforcement. Clearly the S.C. DSS cannot handle this, so we continue to pay millions of dollars in fines. Do we want to continue as this agency suggests for four more years until officials there can figure it out?
Over the past year, I have participated in 13 subcommittee meetings and heard testimony from people ranging from experts to average citizens who have lost their children due to careless acts and overworked employees who could not help but let things slip through the cracks. I get 15 to 20 calls or emails a week from people all over the state asking for my help with DSS problems.
We need a leader in this agency who not only is a good manager but also cares about families and children — and is focused on that issue. We have employees who care, but they cannot do their jobs because they are overworked and put under unbearable pressure. That’s why the turnover rate has been more than 55 percent for the past two years.
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The legislation to separate financial services from child and adult protective services does much more than change a name. It will put the focus on protecting families, children and vulnerable adults and will make someone accountable. It has many components beyond splitting the agency. It will put the financial services in the hands of someone who can handle that responsibility; the Department of Health and Human Services already is handling some welfare services and has figured out how to develop computer systems that work.
It is time we start protecting children such as Robert Guinyard, the Jones children, little Kelly Rynn Martin and Gabriel McArdle and let someone else count and disperse the money.
Sen. Katrina Shealy