NIKKI HALEY CHALLENGED TO SUBMIT “EXECUTIVE PLAN” FOR AGENCY WITHIN TWO WEEKS
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley was personally challenged to submit an “executive plan” to reform her troubled welfare agency within the next two weeks.
Haley’s troubled Department of Social Services (SCDSS) was blistered by state lawmakers at a hearing in Columbia, S.C. this week – with intense scrutiny devoted to the number of case workers the agency assigns to child welfare cases (and the experience of those workers).
Haley’s interim SCDSS director Amber Gillum was repeatedly unable – or unwilling – to answer the most basic questions about her agency’s reform efforts in the wake of the June resignation of Haley’s political appointee, Lillian Koller.
Specifically, Gillum declined to say whether SCDSS had carry-forward money available to begin hiring case workers in its child welfare division, one of many areas where the bloated bureaucracy has been dropping the ball.
SCDSS’ budget has been in flux in recent years thanks to a decision by lawmakers to take more than $1 billion in food stamp funds offline. Food stamps, incidentally, are another area of ongoing concern at SCDSS.
So … how much money does the agency have?
Two-and-a-half months ago, SCDSS received $658 million as it share of the state’s FY 2014-15 budget. That’s an increase of $3 million from the previous year. In FY 2012-13 the agency received $2.1 billion – although that figure included at least $1.3 billion in food stamp funding.
The agency has submitted a request to hire 109 new child welfare case workers in the FY 2015-16 budget at an undetermined cost – although the job postings for those positions would not be filled until September 2015 at the earliest. Additionally, most case workers take at least nine months to properly train, the agency says.
In other words these new workers wouldn’t be on the job for nearly two years …
SCDSS has experienced high turnover over the last few years – as documented in this exclusive memo obtained by FITS. Currently there are forty-one open positions at the agency, although it’s not immediately clear how many of these posts are for child welfare case workers.
Democratic lawmakers – led by S.C. Sen. Joel Lourie – are pressing the agency to request an emergency bailout from the S.C. Budget and Control Board (SCBCB).
Naturally, we reject the contention that problems at this agency can be solved by throwing more money at them … if that were the case, South Carolina would be the envy of the nation instead of, well … what it is. We also reject the suggestion that additional government regulation of the child care industry is what’s needed to solve this problem.
In our opinion, a $658 million annual budget should provide SCDSS with more than enough money to handle the core government function of protecting the well-being of abused or neglected children.
Anyway, FITS spoke with several of the lawmakers conducting the hearings into this agency and hope to have more specific information on the agency’s funding situation in the weeks to come.