SCDSS Hearing Focuses On Case Workers

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…


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.

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Tunes'n'News September 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

They absolutely need more caseworkers. I have no opinion on if they have enough money overall to do what they ought to be doing.

shifty henry September 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Will, stay on it like hair on a hot biscuit….

euwe max September 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Like stink on a Republican…

Wicked Stick September 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Like the ugly all over Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

euwe max September 16, 2014 at 6:46 pm

You can’t wash off ugly or stupid…

Gale September 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

The pucture of Amber Gillum says it all..Haley flunkies in charge with mo experience. Haley out this November.

Vote out Haley September 16, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Haley has consistently replaced experienced, knowledgeable managers and employees with her hand picked incompetent, inexperienced sycophants!
I could name numbers of them. The State is truly screwed under her and will become worse, with her reelection!
We will be begging for a recall authorization!

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 6:28 pm

You want to why she is looking like that????? Because she don’t know NOTHING about child welfare. Amber has NEVER worked in human services she only knows about food stamps and welfare checks to baby mommas! How can DSS put someone like that as head of that agency. Do you see what is sitting next to her?????JESSICA….. She is the real air head behind it all. She couldn’t run the agency after Lillian got put out so she tries to be smart by messing things up through Amber! They really think we the people are stupid

Beartrkkr September 17, 2014 at 8:32 pm Reply
UMMMMMM September 21, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Spartanburg has an opening for a director position. Let’s wait and see if they appoint yet another person to direct an agency in trouble with no experience on running a county agency. Word has it the newly appointed Interim Director is Angela Robinson, who has been with the agency about 20 years. She began her career in economic services and then moved to CPS. She answered the hotline telephone for years, and never carried a caseload or worked in the field. The “good ‘ole boys” promoted her to supervisor as the program director and Angela were friends. She recently was promoted again to Program Coordinator. Again, she worked a short time in the economic services department as a SNAP caseworker and then straight to answering telephones, deciding if an abuse/neglect report was valid to take. Never did she work in the territory nor carry a caseload. Come on people! Let’s make smart decisions!

Gale September 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Haley has a edict. ..dont spend money on the people that need it only on the top managers who know how to cut and never ask for anything you need in a budget.

SCBlueWoman September 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Sounds like they want to pin it on the lower level, underpaid and overworked case workers. Nikki will keep her head, as will her minions.

TontoBubbaGoldstein September 16, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Sounds like they want to pin it on the lower level, underpaid and overworked case workers.

Pro Tip:

Sh!t flows downhill.

KarmaSmiles September 19, 2014 at 11:55 pm

You could hear some tales from the collateral damage (former workers now in therapy and/or taking medication as a direct result of this agency). Many of those are unable or no longer willing to work in human services. These are actual people who generally obtained a degree in a social services-related fields, well aware that they’d likely struggle financially for much of their careers. They believe that individuals are valuable and able to overcome challenges, enriching their lives, families and communities. Seeing families in desperate situations, sandwiched between overwhelming work loads and punitive management is not a winning combination for staff morale and retention. I could write a novel (possible career path!), but it’s Friday night and they get no more of my evening.

concerned September 20, 2014 at 10:40 am

In some cases, the workers have suffered much more than therapy and/or medications.

Squishy123 September 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Why is there such a need for this many extra case workers? Because there is so much abuse by SC citizens half of whom shouldn’t be allowed to have children? We could double their budget and the same dipshits in this state would be reproducing and abusing the services handed to them.

nitrat September 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm

The freezes on DSS hiring started before Mark Sanford became governor – 12 years ago in the post 9/11 recession.
It has been cut, cut, cut jobs ever since. County directors were too afraid under Koller/Blanco to request workers when they knew they needed them.

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm

County directors need to learn the job themselves!!

concerned September 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

Amen to that…the first thing they do is get their friends promotions and or jobs. They don’t care if they’re qualified or not.

Squishy123 September 17, 2014 at 10:09 am

That doesn’t answer my question, if people in this state would live like “human goddamned beings” (Boys in Company C movie quote) we wouldn’t need hundreds of state employees telling them how to live their lives.

G.O.B. September 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Hold is she? About 30? Too young to be running SCDSS.

TontoBubbaGoldstein September 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Hold is she?

Yont to?

What's age got to do with it? September 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Youth does not always equal Incompetence….but old age does typically equal incontinence, impotence and most words ending with “ence” (lol).

Hannah September 16, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Nikki Haleys little twat is only gonna answer what Nikki tells her she can answer to. Why you ask because Nikki gave the order to cut staff to begin with.

Millicent September 16, 2014 at 5:29 pm

DSS. Understaffed, underfunded and severely underled. How many more, guys? How many more does it take?

Mitty September 16, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Add under age : Jessica and Amber are nice girls but are getting eaten alive by dss!

nitrat September 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I have no sympathy for people who take jobs they know they are unqualified for.

Am I correct to assume they have one of those absolutely worthless MSWs from USC? That don’t make them qualified for a bless-ed thing.

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Yeah blame it on being too young. DSS have way more competent people with way more experience than Amber or Jessica. I wonder what made them qualify???? It’s who you know right??? Nice girls my foot. You should hear the things they say behind closed doors!!!

Bono September 17, 2014 at 12:40 am

So is ur money on Amber or Haley?

Elroy September 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm

The problem is in Columbia, not the field offices…

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Child please!!!!! The county directors and program coordinators like the ones in a Richland and Lexington are good for nothing. Believe me I know!!!!

concerned September 16, 2014 at 7:36 pm

You are only as good as your upper management, do I need to say more. They have failed the boots on the ground. Interesting when Lourie discovered there’s 80 less case workers from May unit now. Could this be from the State crew running them off through terminations, demotions, or just forcing them to quit. Lets get to the real problem here, get in that State office and do a GOOD HOUSECLEANIG that’s well over due. Then move on to the County office’s and take a hard look at the Directors they have in place.

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Oh how I agree!!!!!!! The county directors are the real dummies

nitrat September 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

They are certainly the most desperate to keep those jobs they have failed so miserably at.

Shutupimtalking September 16, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Our frontline staff are constantly under fire. The agency implemented a hiring freeze in 2008-2009 due to budget crisis. Between 2008 and 2012, we lost slots to attrition. The positions were never recovered. When the freeze lifted in spring of 2012, we were only allowed to fill positions that were vacated after April 2012. Meanwhile we were bleeding out. Of course Haley ran on the promise to decrease state government. So none of the upper managers would acknowledge that we were in crisis. The promise of by help was dangled like a carrot in front of county staff. We kept begging and asking for help. The response from regional and upper management was that we needed to quit behaving like victims and get the job done by any means. No one in state office gave a damn about caseload sizes. We were told if we did not like it we should get out. There was no value placed in dedication or years of experience. So we kept trying and telling anyone who would listen that we were in crisis, that caseloads were dangerously high, that staff were burning out, and that it wasn’t “if” something happened but “when.” Occasionally we would be allowed to hire but the training process was contracted to USC and took months to complete when classes were available. For every 3 new workers trained 2 would quit within the year. Who could blame them really? Now everyone is scurrying like the rats they are to cover their butts. Nothing has changed. They are simply trying to come up with a good spin so they can keep their jobs. Has it gotten any better? Not a bit! It won’t until the whole lot of them are gone -state office upper managers, regional managers, performance coaches and county directors. They are tryin to blame the shortcomings of the community based preventative services on intake when really there was such a rush to implement the program that training was inadequate and there were no clear guidelines. They just doled out millions to half-@$$ed contracts without proper piloting to work out bugs and without input from anyone in the county. Now they’ve hired a consulting firm to develop a plan to communicate better with staff. PATHETIC!!!

Love Life September 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm

???????????? most of what you’re saying Shutupimtalking is true, but the real problems is where the real money is at…….at the top!!! DSS spent too much money $$$$$ on USC, Family Connections and Comunity Base & preventive Services and WHY??

Beartrkkr September 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Generally in cases like this you only need to follow the money…

Contracted services to private companies with the promise to promote efficiency generally only serves to maximize profits for said company at the expense of the affected (children).

It would also be interesting to see where raises and promotions occurred over the last several years. I would not be surprised to see pay increases/promotions at the higher levels and almost none at the bottom. In situations like this, the higher ups threaten the lower minions with RIFs and such to keep them quiet.

I would also bet there are plenty of promotions to management-type positions doled out over the years to inexperienced/unqualified persons so as to curry favor with certain lawmakers.

nitrat September 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

The owners, probably mostly out of state, of the contract foster care and community services crap are probably making big campaign contributions. We need their names.

nitrat September 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

That damn USC Children and Family Services is the source of the god-awful, endless certification training (That used to be done in 3 weeks in-house before Koller came and fired the entire SDT division), the auditing of files and a black hole for what must be millions pissed away there.
I have tried to find something somewhere about how much DSS money goes to USC and can’t. Anyone have a clue where it can be found?

Vote Haley out September 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Documents continue to show too many cases for some workers, not just in Lexington county, but across the state.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – The acting Department of Social Services State
Director testified to state senators Tuesday that high caseloads are
still a problem across the state.

Acting Director Amber Gillum was
not asked however about the 5 Jones children who Lexington County
Sheriff’s Deputies say were murdered by their father Timothy Jones.

committee members are unanimous in our decision to honor that request,”
said Sen. Tom Young (R-Aiken) at the beginning of Tuesdays meeting.
“There will be a time for this committee to ask about involvement with
the Jones family.”

DSS was not asked about their involvement with
Jones, Young said, at the request of the Lexington County Sheriff,
Lexington County Coroner, and SLED Chief Mark Keel.

“We want justice to be served for these five innocent children,” Young said.

Records released by DSS show the department had two cases opened on the children’s father Timothy Jones in 2014.

documents produced during Tuesdays hearing show during that time, high
caseloads and worker turnover in the Lexington DSS office.

said with the investigation still ongoing, they could not say for
certain if DSS should have taken any different action in the case.

know the caseloads are a problem,” said action DSS State Director Amber
Gillum during her first testimony before the Senate Subcommittee.

Documents continue to show too many cases for some workers, not just in Lexington county, but across the state.

Some workers have more than 100 children under there care, too many based on a new standard DSS developed earlier this year.

have no feeling how upset I am,” said Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland).
“When I look right here at these case loads and see my county has 4 less
caseworkers today, y’all should be embarrassed to bring these numbers
to us.”

DSS plans to ask for money to pay 200 new caseworkers but that appropriation won’t happen till next year.

Senators urged DSS leaders to find a way to hire new front line workers before then.

could be two years before those boots are on the ground,” Lourie said.
“We need people yesterday. We need people last month. We need these
caseloads to be going down.”

Huh?! September 17, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Consultants in Caymens???

Rebecca Patrick September 19, 2014 at 12:28 am

Stop bitching and moaning and acknowledge the truth – – budget cuts have caused the mess at DSS and crazy mean people kill children! If you want to blame someone, look toward the legislature! Who passed the law that allows DSS to contract children’s services out to private providers? Not DSS folks cause they do not have the power and not Haley cause she was not elected! If you want to do something helpful for children in SC, step up and volunteer to be a foster parent or mentor, become a tutor or a rec coach, become a guardian ad litem or CASA volunteer, call your local DSS office and ask how you can help! Call the SC Foster Parents Association and volunteer to help with recruitment of foster and adoptive parents! Call your local school and volunteer to collect coats and shoes for needy kids! Invite an at risk kid and his family to your church Sunday and then stop by to check on them during the week! Be a good neighbor — befriend the kids in your neighborhood and their parents and keep an eye on them. Do not expect the impossible from a state agency! DSS cannot do what society neglects to do —it takes a damn village to raise a child, so don’t be the village idiot who looks the other way and points a finger at those who are doing something to make a difference! Call your legislators and let them know that child safety and protection is important to you and that you are holding them accountable for the laws they pass. Focus on the court system and hold judges accountable for hearing cases and making sound decisions. Focus on law enforcement and make sure that officers have the knowledge and resources to protect children.

The people who got fired from DSS needed to be gone– they were being held accountable and the spotlight was on their work and they could not hide behind an excuse any longer. DSS finally has been able to get rid of the folks who were clogging the system–the ones on TERI and on contract after TERI who were perpetuating the same failures as the year before. DSS is finally able to hire new people with new ideas- thank GOD! And think about how many kids died under the watch of previous DSS leaders — no more than during this administration. In past administrations people did not get fired, they just got moved to lower positions and kept their high salaries because DSS leaders were afraid to fire people because of lawsuits.

And for God’s sake, somebody teach Lourie to read a DSS report! He and Shealy are disgusting! They both have likely reached out to DSS to try to pull strings when their friends were being investigated— and many other legislators have done the same. How many have pulled strings at DSS to get their sisters and brithers hired? All Lourie and Shealy are doing is grandstanding. They have never requested that reports be explained to them. They read a short header at the top and assume knowledge that they do not possess. They have done more to hurt SC children than any person that works in the child welfare system. Because of their viciousness people have quit DSS and potential employees will not accept DSS jobs. Lourie needs to stop parading his friends through the subcommittee hearing to testify at his whim because they are just disgruntled former employees. That crappy staff at Richland DSS was hired by his friend, and that Ginyard kid died under the watch of Lourie’s friend– maybe they can ask forgiveness next time they are in church together. Shealy nor Lourie have darkened the doors of DSS and they should if they really want to know what it is like to work there— they can get off their high horse and get in DSS state car at Richland for a ride along, but I am sure it is much easier to sit on their thrones and pass judgement on people and practices they know nothing about. They are scared to learn about the real work. I once voted for Sheehan but he has lost my respect and support by parading Leon Lott on a commercial to proclain that DSS kills children– and Where the hell did Leon get that uniform? Lol and who the hell is the old white haired guy running against Haley that is tugging Sheehan’s coattails by downing DSS— he would have fared better saying that we all have a responsibility to protect children and we should be working together.

I have worked at DSS for 10 years and I am proud of the agency and the work we do! I am happy about the changes that have been made! They have not been easy, but they have been worth it! Regardless of the crap that is being slung, we will continue to work hard to make sure that children and families are served with dignityt and respect!

Robert Whitman September 19, 2014 at 12:39 am

Well said, RP! DSS folks are sick of being kicked and punched by people who do not know the work! I am an investigator and I would love for anyone on that committee to come ride with me for a day! My friends are Family Pres workers and would welcome riders, too! I must admit that Blanco and Koller needed to go, but Amber and Jessica are the real deal and I am glad they are there! They are listening to staff and trying to move the agency forward, despite the fact that they have to cowtow to the subcommittee. I think that all DSS should wear black shirts, drive to DSS Monday, and link arms around DSS state office at 1 pm in a show of solidarity and support for the work that we do! I will be there! YOLO


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