COMPLAINT CONTAINS HORROR STORIES OF ABUSE, NEGLECT …
|| By FITSNEWS || The hits just keep-a-coming for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley‘s embattled Department of Social Services (SCDSS) …
Less than a year after Haley effusively praised the agency’s former director in her State of the State speech, the scandal-scarred bureaucracy – relentlessly exposed from 2011-13 by this website – has been slapped with a major lawsuit over its mistreatment of the state’s most vulnerable young people.
“As a direct result of longstanding, well-documented failures, plaintiff children have been and continue to be harmed physically, psychologically and emotionally and continue to be placed at ongoing risk of such harms while in (SCDSS) custody,” the suit alleged, adding that the agency is “re-victimizing the very children it is charged to protect.”
Hard to argue with that …
The lawsuit comes seven months after the long-overdue resignation of Haley’s “rock star” political appointee to lead this agency, Lillian Koller, and three months after SCDSS was blasted by a state audit.
According to that report’s findings, SCDSS has a poorly trained, unqualified workforce dealing with excessive caseloads, bad data and incomplete reporting. The agency has also allegedly manipulated screening procedures for child abuse and neglect investigations – “reforms” that have unnecessarily placed children’s lives in danger.
How has Haley handled the problems? Poorly. Rather than attempting to implement reforms, she’s actually attacked the reformers trying to fix the agency (including her longtime political ally, S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy).
Haley’s strategy has only compounded the damage …
“Just read the stories of the representative children in the complaint,” said Matthew Richardson, one of the attorneys who filed the suit. “Thankfully, some were willing to have their story told and their next friends were willing to stand up publicly to show what we all already suspected.”
Richardson is correct: The stories are horrific …
According to the suit, one fifteen-year-old girl was “placed in a group facility where food was often expired or moldy, girls were denied basic hygiene products, and conditions were unsanitary and in disrepair – feces remained on the shower floor for over a month during her placement.”
Meanwhile a six-year-old girl was “forced to go up to the church altar against her will for an extremely long period in a ceremony that would remove the devil from (her) soul.”
A twelve-year-old boy also reported suffering physical violence at the hands of his “caretakers” in one of these group homes.
“Staff verbally and physically abused him – grabbing him by the arms, slamming him on the ground and dragging him across the floor,” the complaint reads.
In all of the cases, SCDSS is accused of failing to properly investigate the complaints.
“This is literally a matter of life and death for innocent children across South Carolina,” Richardson added. “We have ethical, moral, and Constitutional obligations to the children of our state, and we must live up to these obligations and do the right thing for them now.”
Sadly, that’s a trend that’s extended to the state’s mainstream media … which failed to properly investigate this agency.
Last spring, South Carolina’s MSM finally got around to confirming a shocking story that was published by this website in the summer of 2013. We’re referring of course to the tragic tale of Robert Guinyard Jr., a four-year-old boy who was placed in an abusive home by SCDSS despite repeated warnings about his safety.
One week after Guinyard’s death, FITS published a story indicating SCDSS put the boy back into the home even though his mother explicitly said she didn’t want him there – and even though a relative was attempting to gain custody of him in an effort to provide him with a safe place to live.
On July 1, 2013, Guinyard was brutally murdered in his home by his own parents, 28-year-old Robert Antonio Guinyard and 25-year-old Courtney Shante Thompson.
We called on Haley to fire Koller in the aftermath of that tragedy – not just because there was actual blood on the agency’s hands, but because the Guinyard tragedy was the latest in a long line of examples of her unfitness for office.
SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster since Haley took office in 2011 – most notably as it relates to these instances in which vulnerable children were repeatedly 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).
Reforms have already been proposed for SCDSS in the upcoming legislative session – including one bill recommending a complete overhaul of the agency.
Let’s hope lawmakers take that sort of drastic action. Protecting the most vulnerable among us deserves real systemic reform, not more of the same old “reform in name only” and throwing more money at problems in the hopes they will go away.
PRESS RELEASE (.pdf)
PLAINTIFF SUMMARIES (.pdf)