Coroners Lower Boom On Embattled SC Welfare Agency

NIKKI HALEY’S “ROCK STAR” WELFARE CZARINA NOWHERE TO BE FOUND …  By Amy Lazenby || Two county coroners testified this week before a legislative subcommittee charged with investigating the ongoing fiasco at the Palmetto state’s child welfare agency – the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS). Once again the embattled…


By Amy Lazenby || Two county coroners testified this week before a legislative subcommittee charged with investigating the ongoing fiasco at the Palmetto state’s child welfare agency – the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

Once again the embattled director of the agency – Lillian Koller – failed to appear before the subcommittee to respond to allegations of mismanagement and corruption.

In Koller’s absence, State Senators Tom Young, Jr. (R-Aiken) Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) and Joel Lourie (D-Richland) heard heartbreaking accounts from Richland County Coroner Gary Watts and Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten about children who died during open investigations at SCDSS.

Watts referenced the tragic case of a four-year-old boy named Robert Guilyard Jr. who was murdered in his home last summer. Case files indicated there were fifteen SCDSS reports from the home in which Robert lived (and died) over a seven year period, seven of which specifically mentioned him.

According to SCDSS’ own policies, in a home where abuse or neglect has been documented by the agency, a case should not be referred to an outside/third party for services, but that is exactly what occurred in Robert’s case.

Coroner Watts testified to incredulous subcommittee members that he did not believe the high number of child fatalities in the past two years was a “boots on the ground” issue. Watts said the indication he got while completing death investigations was that caseworkers were pressured by “higher-ups” at SCDSS to lower the number of abuse cases at the agency by farming them out to independent child welfare groups to reduce the number of cases on the books, and this prevented social workers from adequately protecting South Carolina’s children.

Watts also volunteered that he was contacted by SCDSS at around the same time the agency was notified he would be testifying, and three days before subcommittee hearing was called to a meeting with three SCDSS employees who wanted to to let him know about new procedures being put in place at the agency. Lourie found the timing of that meeting “troubling.”

Coroner Wooten testified that, contrary to Governor Nikki Haley’s assessment las week that Koller was a “rock star” under whom “all the numbers that I worked with her on have improved,” the child fatality situation at SCDSS has not gotten any better over the past two years in her experience. Although she has questioned why children were returned to homes where alleged abuse took place in the past, it seemed to her that in the last two years, she has dealt with an increase in what she called “glaring” cases – those where multiple red flags were raised prior to a homicide. Wooten said that while some legal loopholes could be closed, she has seen a basic “lack of common sense” from SCDSS.

Wooten cited problems she encountered with investigative transparency. “If you don’t ask the right questions of DSS, you don’t get the full picture,” she said. Child fatality cases Wooten investigated involved multiple family interactions with DSS, incidents of reported abuse, and findings of “unfounded” cases that eventually resulted in murders. Wooten said there was no way to determine if an allegation was inappropriately handled and expressed a desire to see a much greater level of transparency at the agency. She also testified that many caseworkers she came into contact with in the course of death investigations were frustrated with outcomes and believed that their agency was not doing enough to help their charges – parenting classes and drug treatment programs not withstanding.

In addition to the two coroners, several former SCDSS employees testified about a culture of fear, intimidation, bullying, and pressure to get cases “off the books” at the agency during Koller’s tenure.

Koller has been working from home since suffering an apparent stroke last December and has not testified before the special Senate subcommittee, but she has been seen in her office and at public functions, including the Governor’s State of the State address and a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion last week.

At the start of the hearing, Sen. Young Stated that Koller informed the subcommittee that she anticipated being well enough to testify before the body by April or May, and he assured those in attendance that her testimony would be taken – even if it meant waiting longer than that.

An outraged Sen. Lourie insisted that it was time for Koller to “leave the agency.”


Amy Lazenby is the Associate Opinion Editor for FITSNews. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @Mrs_Laz.

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Fun with words March 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

So the cock star is praising the rock star?

gunj March 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Wonder what the relationship between Haley, Koller, and Hall are really about?

Same ol' Same ol' March 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

That is exactly what I was wondering. How could someone who was fired from the same job in another state be able to do this again? What is the connection? Who’s calling in this favor and why? Absolute madness.

reply March 19, 2014 at 2:48 pm Reply
GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Social work grads are almost exclusively radical Liberal Democrats. USC just got busted using a leftwing hate-filled, bigoted textbook for anti-Conservative propaganda, to teach lies about Ronald Reagan..


TEXTBOOK liberalism is: You infiltrate all government funded (by us) agencies (see education)…and like ALL liberalism, you are colossal FAILURES, over and over…

And when people elect Republicans to office…you go running out in the streets using your FAILED liberal programs, people and agencies to define the Rs…and claim they are failed…

Again: Electing Rs is pointless, unless it’s Conservatives, who KNOW that Flushing the system of ALL liberals, and their Failed Thought.

a republican March 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Grand Tango. I am a Republican and could not disagree with you more concerning the issues @ DSS. These are children and families that are being affected by Lillian Koller, Jessica Hanak-Coulter, and her Regional Managers who focus on numbers to please Governor Haley. To refer to children and families as numbers makes me sick, period!! Gov Haley and Koller are the ones bringing politics into this mess. Your attempts to bash liberals, republicans or whomever your stupid rants are focusing on are despicable. Your response to comments on this web site are a joke, since most people who comment on the issues @ DSS are concerned about the welfare of children and not politics. Children who are being abused have no say so in how “moral” their parents are. Do you have any opinions whatsoever that do not try and defend your politics? One thing is for sure, you are an idiot!

euwe max March 19, 2014 at 3:05 pm

We keep him around for comic relief.

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Works great. Can we get him on You Tube?

euwe max March 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I was thinking of buying the licensing rights to the movie.

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Wait. Think about it. Grand – like big deal. Tango – sexy Argentine dance. Hey, that’s not guy – that’s Sanford’s chick. Grand Tango is Maria. Gotta be.

euwe max March 19, 2014 at 7:05 pm

it *would* explain the dick sucking metaphors…

shifty henry March 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

1) “bobble heads” – make sure the heads face backwards

2) “name for a variety of pot” – POT LITE is available

3) “Grand Tango ride” – make that the Grand Turnip Ride

4) “Grand Tango Game” – also try the Chinese Finger Puzzle

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Again: Welfare case workers, and almost all of the administrators, are LIBERALS. You are Ignorant if you don’t know that. You are a LIAR if you deny it…

Republicans get elected, and leave these addled, leftwing Gov’t Workers, who hate the Rs, in their jobs. These infiltrated haters and bigots, are misguided in the first place, and they work to sabotage the success of our leaders, because they HATE Republicans…We need to hire in agencies on pre-American, pro-morality philosophy,,,or forget it getting fixed…

Colin Powell and Valerie Plame are Great examples in the Federal gov’t. They were graciously left in place by Bush and wanted to bring down Bush…

We MUST Fumigate our agencies, and fill them w/ Conservative thinking, success-oriented staff, to SOLVE the problem…Scott Walker began doing it in Wisc. and he just turned a half-billion tax cut back over to his residents…

It’s a war…and you don’t let the enemy POWs run your country, after you’ve caught them or defeated them…

Eliminate Liberals in public jobs…or the rot will just spread (See education, healthcare)….

a republican March 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Your reply just strengthened my first comment. Thanks for making my point.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

IF you are a Republican, you are the F*#king reason the party’s name is in such trouble.

The Tea Party Thrives because of Idiots, like you…you are on the inside, screwing up everything, and good people who vote R have to suffer for your ignorance, and greed….

please go away March 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

GrankTango. I think you need therapy, and quickly I might add. F-words do not make your point.

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm

That, or the party’s name is dog dirt because nobody agrees with anything it stands for. See most people aren’t anti-gay, anti-women, anti-change, anti-technology, anti-education, anti-minorities, anti-government like the GOP is. They’re selling hot coffee in the tropics and wondering why no body’s buying it.

It ain’t the messaging Dumb Face – it’s the actual message.

euwe max March 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Separating reality from Politics requires removing the Republicans.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm

The GOP is pro-American. We believe in equality of all. We do not promise favors based on race, gender or sexual preference…

Once these democrat special interests figure out they are being used, and failure hurts ALL Americans (except the liberal elite)…I think we’ll get a correction…

We may have come over on different boats, but we’re all in the same boat now. Hating fellow Americans is destructive, and hopefully Obama’s REVENGE voters have figured out he is the problem, not us contributors…

David "Jobs Creator" Koch March 19, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Damn this guy tells it like it is!

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

The system was Screwed up LONG before Haley…and not a word was said. Little boys being raped was a BIG problem under Hodges’ Czar…where was all your CONCERN, then???

john March 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

You are so lost working for the agency for 28 years it has gotten worse under the Republican administration. .staff reductions. ..promotion of buddies…cases were not being thrown out to have a lower case number. ..hiring consultant to tell you something that employees gave told you for years…corrupt mailing system to close out food stamp and family independence cases to reduce the number of eligible recipient young and old. Interview phone line that impropriety works ..

No you research than post r comments.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Society has gotten LOST…but because you are a liberal you blame EVERYBODY else…

That said: The agency has gotten lost, to, because liberals run it. You fail at everything. See Detroit. See Moscow. See Nazi Germany. You never learn from your failure, unfortunately…

john March 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

You truly in lala land. ..

Labor Finders™ March 19, 2014 at 5:44 pm

He needs to get a goddamn job!

Fits! March 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

In my opinion Haley will NEVER fire her, that would mean she would have to admit she made a mistake. Sure she might pressure her to resign, but I doubt she would ever have the integrity necessary to fire her.

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

And makes a nice issue for her challenger.

?????? March 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Even if she does resign I wonder if Haley will make sure she lands a plum job somewhere else?

Shutupimtalking March 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Linda Martin and Alan Carter did a great job! They gave very accurate descriptions of the current administration and that administration’s impact on County staff and ultimately the families they serve. Have mistakes been made? Absolutely! When you are working caseloads that are impossibly large, something is going to be missed! The current administration does not respect job experience, preferring to replace experienced staff with Directors, Regional Managers, and Performance Coaches who will simply quote the “company line.” Hopefully Ms. Koller is on her way out, and right behind her is Hanak-Coulter, Sturkey, and their squad of Regional Team Leaders.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Sounds like the system is over-loaded w/ liberal cases……yet liberals are squealing for more…and $#!* all over yourselves when you are asked to teach people morality, instead of government dependence.

smithaw March 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

“over-loaded with liberal cases”?? What the hell does that mean? Since when is the concern for the poorest and most vulnerable of SC’s citizens, her children, a “liberal” case and not a concern for all of us? The children are not to blame for the terrible situations in which they find themselves; it is their accidents of birth–which they did not choose. Unfortunately, the state does need to have a department of Social Services that is large enough, funded well enough and staffed competently enough to implement social programs that will benefit the citizens of this state who need them… the elderly, the handicapped, the young, and, yes, the impoverished. Your “morality” has nothing to do with it; it is a practical matter.

GrandTango March 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

On another post you said I say nothing of interest, and it’s all the same thing. Evidently, I’m saying something different from the stupid Clichés that you dull liberals perpetuate…

You are actually spewing the same old Bull$#!*…always claiming more money for failed social programs…that have broken us, and only expanded the poverty and suffering that you claim you can fix, over and over….Dumb@$$….

gunj March 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm

She wouldn’t know a rock star if she saw one.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Liberals make up the body of Social Welfare agencies. Most young liberals want to get into welfare work because they have been programmed into the idea that those programs work..

Once they figure out they don’t, they just ride the system, to get a check. That’s why it’s so screwed up. Gov’t cannot raise children. It’s why we need to teach conservative values and morality, instead of foster abandoned fathers and hand-out-taking mammas, like the liberals do…

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I wish you would stop bashing the military.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm

The Military actually earns its money and soldiers are underpaid, even though they are one of the reasons to have a gov’t…. They vote Republican too…

Why do you think Gore disenfranchised members of the military when he was trying to steal the White House in 2000??…Dumb@$$…..

Rocky March 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Are you sure? What about gay soldiers? Do they vote Republican? What about women soldiers / sailors – do they vote Republican? But then maybe they do, I can think of one soldier who’s potentially gay and votes Republican – but you don’t like Senator Graham – a great American.

You swingin’ by the tent tonight for hot dogs? Need to know – heading to the store with my EBT and need a head count.

GrandTango March 19, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I said the soldiers who EARN a paycheck…not the ones in to push Obama’s agenda.

been there March 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm

You are an idiot prick!!!!!!!!

GrandTango March 20, 2014 at 7:18 am

Thank you…you’re a filthy liberal, who hates this country…I consider your attack as VERY HIGH praise.

We build this country. You tear it down. In the end, we will defeat your bigoted and callous assault. Count on it.

smithaw March 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Who IS this Grand Tango person? Does he just get on here to troll? I don’t read FITS that often, but whenever I see his posts, they all say the same thing. He doesn’t seem to have much imagination or real insight into current affairs, does he. boring. Why does anyone bother responding to him? Nothing he has said sheds any light on any current issue or adds any dimension to a discussion.

GrandTango March 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I’m so un-interesting that I provoked a dis-interested, leftwing dumb@$$, drone, like you, to comment…Even though FITS does not interest you enough to ” read FITS that often”…

And: I’m guessing since I’m saying nothing new, this is the last time we have to read anything from your Ignorant @##.???LMAO…

What do you expect March 19, 2014 at 5:34 pm

This is the kind of thing that Democrats and Republicans alike can bluster and pound their chests about but not a fucking thing is going to change until the agency’s mission is adequately funded. If this website’s founder had his way, that will never happen.

anon. March 19, 2014 at 9:42 pm


fbe0198 March 21, 2014 at 6:55 am

Linda and Alan were 100% correct. The caseloads are much, much higher than 6. Assessment workers have 25 in my county – with 50-60 children in each caseload. It’s impossible to protect children like this. We beg to get positions filled and watch while Senior Consultants, Alternative Caregiver Liaisons, Performance Coaches, Deputy County Directors, etc, etc, etc positions get created and posted every week. Not to mention the 100+ Intensive foster care workers who do “teaming” (whatever that is) and just waltz into our offices nice and relaxed from carrying their handful of cases. This administration is causing children to die with their favoritism and lack of knowledge of how a county office operates.

helpusplease March 21, 2014 at 9:05 am

Not to mention the fact that it takes up to 9 months to a year for a CPS worker to be hired and certified to do their jobs. They cannot do investigations until certified. By the time they get certified, others have quit and the cycle goes on and on. Massive numbers of consultants, performance coaches, etc. are a waste of time and money. Koller, Hanak-Coulter, and the Regional Directors need to come clean on the numbers………….how many investigators statewide who have been hired who are not yet certified? How many quit before they complete the year long certification process? This is how they manipulate the numbers to make themselves and the Gov look good. They are LIARS, period! 6 investigations per worker……… their dreams. And by the way; Koller, Hanak-Coulter, and the Regional Directors are not even certified in child welfare (the basic certification to be a caseworker) and they are the ones making the decisions and hiring new line staff? Hank-Coulter wouldn’t know the “right work” if it hit her in the head and neither would the Regional Directors. They have never done “the work” period. They are all I. Blanco clones, and that is certainly not a compliment (unless you like alcoholic psychopaths). The situation @ DSS is beyond crazy and these folks need to be fired or resign immediately. The Regional Directors are a joke and do what they are told by Koller and Hanak-Coulter and 99% of the staff @ DSS cannot stand the sight of them. None of them have experience in actually doing casework, but they do read a lot of books (a tradition started by I. Blanco) and can quote passages from these books (ie…the right work). Allen Carter said it best “the agency management operates by “fear and intimidation”. “If you question their practices you are fired!” How in the world can the Gov continue to support these people? Please help the County Offices line staff!


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