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Katrina Shealy Bill Would Scrap SCDSS, “Start Over” On Child Welfare

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RENAMED, REFOCUSED AGENCY WOULD DEAL MORE DIRECTLY WITH CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT

By FITSNEWS || During her first two years as a State Senator in South Carolina, Lexington County’s Katrina Shealy has developed a reputation as an unapologetic supporter of free market economic reforms – and a champion for the “least of these” in the Palmetto State.

She’s also made it abundantly clear that half-measures will not be tolerated in pursuit of those objectives …

In keeping with that philosophy, Shealy announced her intention this week to file legislation that would eliminate the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) – shifting many of its functions to another agency in the executive branch.  Those remaining responsibilities would fall under the purview of a renamed agency – one with a more targeted focus.

SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster under S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – most notably as it relates to repeated instances in which vulnerable children were placed in abusive homes.

Beyond that, there’s the agency’s ongoing failure with regard to the state’s child support enforcement database – or its total lack of follow-through regarding a food stamp waiver touted by Haley in her so-called “war on fat.” There are also questionable consultant payments and allegations of cooked books at its “welfare to work” program (as well as its food stamp system).

(For a recent report detailing one of these scams, CLICK HERE).

How does Shealy aim to fix things?

For starters, all Medicaid-funded programs currently administered by SCDSS would be placed under the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) – which already doles out the vast majority of the state’s Medicaid funding.

“We’re streamlining and refocusing our government,” Shealy told FITS. “We have an agency that knows how to do this already.”

The renamed and “streamlined” social services agency – dubbed the S.C. Department of Family Protective Services (SCFPS) – would maintain responsibility for handling child neglect and abuse cases as well as adult protective services (which includes allegations of senior abuse).

KATRINA SHEALY

KATRINA SHEALY

Beyond narrowing the focus of this newly christened bureaucracy, Shealy’s bill would specifically define the qualifications and responsibilities of child welfare case workers – while creating a new statewide hotline for child abuse and neglect cases (scrapping the existing ineffective county-based system).

These issues were repeatedly raised during hearings held by a Senate committee on which Shealy served.

“After spending twelve months studying the system and seeing child after child put in harm’s way, I think the best solution is to start over – and start building a structure that focuses on putting the needs of our children first,” Shealy said.  “I don’t think the people of South Carolina are going to be happy with anything less than a total overhaul of a broken system.”

Child advocates applauded Shealy’s efforts – although they cautioned against viewing structural reform as a panacea.

“I respect Senator Shealy,” one prominent child advocate told FITS.  “She has done her homework and is taking on a lot of issues with this legislation.  But restructuring is an uphill battle that may create more questions than answers.  (It is) not always the one ‘fix all’ people hope it will be.”

“Leadership is still critical and that has yet to be addressed in the state,” the advocate added.

That’s true …

Under Shealy’s legislation, control of child welfare in South Carolina would remain within Haley’s cabinet- which has proven itself to be totally incompetent (if not criminally negligent) in safeguarding the best interests of vulnerable children.

Still, as bad as Haley has been on this issue we don’t believe in further diluting the authority of the state’s already neutered executive branch – even if South Carolinians choose not to hold its leader accountable.  That would be a recipe for disaster in the event a reform-minded governor with a real vision for the state is ever elected.

If anything, we need to expand the purview of the executive branch in the Palmetto State – and then hold our chief executive responsible for the results.

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