Oversight Survey: Palmetto Welfare Agency Slammed … Again

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS ONGOING, SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS AT SCDSS || By FITSNEWS || Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a S.C. House of Representatives oversight panel say they have a “negative” or “very negative” perception of the state’s scandal-scarred welfare agency, the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS). The survey (.pdf here) found 27.3…


|| By FITSNEWS || Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a S.C. House of Representatives oversight panel say they have a “negative” or “very negative” perception of the state’s scandal-scarred welfare agency, the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

The survey (.pdf here) found 27.3 percent of respondents had a “very negative” perception of the agency – more than four times the percentage of respondents who said they had a “very positive” perception.  Meanwhile 56 percent of respondents said the agency functioned “worse” or “much worse” than other state bureaucracies.

Based on SCDSS’ history, that’s actually a pretty generous assessment.

Accompanying these abysmal results?  Nearly forty pages of comments from respondents regarding the agency – which was the subject of a brutal October 2014 audit.

Virtually all of the 457 comments are negative.

One of the comments reads as follows …

DSS has no accountability, lacks professional training, has a dangerous internal culture where it is unwilling to work with other agencies, DSS does not communicate, DSS does not provide for the educational needs of students in protective custody, DSS is NOT proactive in protecting children, DSS looks for ways to not do their jobs. Lastly, DSS needs a complete overhaul, replace ALL senior management and county management and understand professional behaviors.


Here’s another …

SC DSS is disfunctional (sic) at best and malignant at worst, and probably closer to the latter. It is a cancer in this state. The from the lowest social worker, to the attorneys who represent the agency in court, to the directors, no one takes their duties and responsibilities to heart. The child deaths in this state are merely a small representation of larger, more widespread delinquencies within the department.

As this website repeatedly noted, SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster since governor Nikki Haley took office in 2011 – most notably as it relates to 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, its total lack of follow-through regarding a food stamp waiver touted by Haley in her so-called “war on fat,” questionable consultant payments and allegations of cooked books at its “welfare to work” program and its food stamp system.

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

Of interest?  Many of the comments in the House oversight report address issues raised by this website over the past four-and-a-half years.  In fact several comments specifically referenced the widespread food stamp fraud at the agency, concluding SCDSS “practically gives away” the benefits to anyone who applies.

“The amounts of benefits people get are far more that I believe the average people or families spend,” one commenter noted, saying the agency need to focus its efforts on identifying and prosecuting fraud.

“We need a full-time unit in each county to find and prosecute (fraud),” the commenter added.

You know … as opposed to covering it up.

Despite these issues, Haley refused to take action at SCDSS for several years.  In fact she even attacked her longtime ally S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy after it became clear Shealy wasn’t going to toe the governor’s line and support the agency’s former director Lillian Koller – whom Haley repeatedly referred to as a “rock star.”

Haley eventually accepted Koller’s resignation – and nominated a “higher educrat” from Clemson University, Susan Alford, to run the department.

Clearly the change has changed nothing …

In addition to SCDSS, the S.C. House oversight survey – conducted in May – also assessed respondents’ views of the S.C. Comptroller General’s office, the S.C. Department of Transportation, the state’s “First Steps to School Readiness” program and the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice.

No agency scored as poorly as SCDSS, nor did any agency generate anywhere near the same level of open-ended reaction.

So … will lawmakers finally get off their asses and enact real reform?

LOL.  Don’t be silly.

Their only reaction to the food stamp scam?  Moving it off the state’s books … 


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Time for Another Renaming August 5, 2015 at 2:36 pm

DSS just needs to be renamed, that seems to fix everything.

Elaina August 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm

In all due respect I think Ms. Alford is way in over her head!!

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Janet August 5, 2015 at 3:21 pm

This story must be wrong because Joel Lourie fixed this! Just as surely as bringing the flag down solved the racism problem, Joel Lourie fixed the DSS problem. i saw his passion, his sense of mission, his love of children, well, maybe I should say the TV cameras SAW his passion, his sense of mission, his love of children etc.

Perhaps had the TV cameras hung around more something would have actually changed.

Louie is a joke and the press that loves his every move, especially the Suck-Up State Newspaper, are the hacks that tell the joke.

Lourie will retire, take a fat contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield and live like a king while the children pay the price for his lack of success.

SC government at its finest.

Jimmy August 5, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Bob Coble, leftist democrate and highly paid lobbyist says Lourie is a Saint. So, it must be true.
It must also be true that DSS has been renovated such that all those people that are complaining must be no good liars.

nitrat August 5, 2015 at 6:41 pm

I thought Katrina Shealy fixed it.
And, the actual Republican in actual charge of the Committee.

Jason August 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Joel is the one retiring. Shealy did nothing as well, but that is not noteworthy. She is in office for the rest of her life.

Victorious Secret August 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Just throwing this out there . . .

But if we all are sick and tired of the corrupt and useless state politician’s, then why do we care what their “perception” is as it relates to another entity? Do we instantly forget their ineptitude and, subsequently, enhance their credibility because they are merely offering their disapproval about another state agency?

TroubleBaby August 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm

“There is no honor among thieves.”

SCBlues August 6, 2015 at 6:31 am

“But if we all are sick and tired of the corrupt and useless state politician’s, then why do we care what their “perception” is as it relates to another entity?”

But if we all are sick and tired of the corrupt and useless state politician’s, then why do we continue to vote Republican?

Leroy's Boy August 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Maybe she should go to Florida and hire someone that was despised by his coworkers and filed false racism complaints to further their career. It has worked well for DPS. That is why they keep hiring troopers but always need to hire more to have officers on patrol.

BlueSkies August 10, 2015 at 10:23 pm

She did go to Florida to find the new General Counsel, who appears to be much less qualified than other applicants.

CSD August 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

So not one soul in South Carolina was qualified? One would think Nikki Haley would want to keep those jobs for South Carolinans. What happened to Jessica Coulter? She is now working with Adult Protective Services.

BlueSkies August 12, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Knowing your stuff and working hard doesn’t always pay off.

concerned August 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm

She did a terrible job with the children, might just as well move on to the adults. They should have showed her the door just like she did with so many qualified workers

jimlewisowb August 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm

No surprises here

Dedicated, loyal, competent child care workers and managers have been thrown on the funeral pyre for years

They have been replaced by carpet baggers, contractors, consultants, political appointees and pond scum

Fucking Cockroaches

SCBlues August 6, 2015 at 6:29 am

So many kids in this state that are in harm’s way that desperately need some assistance – disgusting to me that this agency cannot be cleaned up so it can function properly. The Republican Ghetto of SC should be able to do better – wonder what is preventing that from happening????

JayJay August 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Sounds like you are speaking of all state government agencies.

LivingInAccrualWorld August 6, 2015 at 11:02 am

Agreed. I’d say have the SC Legislative Audit Council do another audit of DSS, but then we’d be waiting another two years before it was released.

nitrat August 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Right sign…wrong fucking building…AGAIN.

It'sAllBad! August 6, 2015 at 8:03 am

Really, it’s ok about the building. SC DMH is every bit as disfunctional as SC DSS. They all belong to Nikki. Third World is Good Enough for her.

Leaky Tanks August 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

“DSS has no accountability, lacks professional training, has a dangerous internal culture where it is unwilling to work with other agencies, DSS does not communicate . . . DSS is NOT proactive in protecting . . . DSS looks for ways to not do their jobs. Lastly, DSS needs a complete overhaul”

“DSS is disfunctional (sic) at best and malignant at worst, and probably closer to the latter. It is a cancer in this state. The from the lowest social worker, to the attorneys who represent the agency in court, to the directors, no one takes their duties and responsibilities to heart.”

This could be said of at least several specific areas of DHEC’s environmental side too. You could start but not end with the underground petroleum tank program.

Wackdackandback August 5, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Susan Alford is beyond “in over her head.” She is, according to folks still working there, completely unable to make a decision without first asking Barbara Derrick what she should do. She wants nothing to do with staff and insulates herself from making decisions by delegating everything to Derrick. She is clueless about what needs to be done to fix the problems and is Nothing but fluff and bluster. Her solution to everything is to announce new policy or find someone to hold accountable. As much as everyone wants to blame lackluster DSS employees for the agency’s current problems, there are many exceptionally talented and dedicated middle managers still employed there who, given half a chance, could fix the problems created by regime after regime of political hacks such as Alford.

Empty Chairs August 6, 2015 at 7:25 pm

DHEC was glad to be rid of Derrick though.

BlueSkies August 8, 2015 at 5:34 pm

And DLLR was glad to be rid of Holly Pisarik. She has brought her special brand of Barbie lawyerism to DSS. She may not be smart, but she is fashionably dressed.

SYNTwist August 5, 2015 at 9:58 pm

I don’t have time to read all this tonight, but I am bookmarking it for later read. Thank you for picking up this important issue.

SYNTwist August 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

I am going to look to see if you have more articles on this topic, but this is one topic that is wide open for exposure. I’ve followed it for years. Had a FB acquaintance that I initially thought nuts. No way this can happen in SC. I met with said person. Said person, added me to groups of others with same problem. Was very instrumental in changing legislation, but unfortunately, was a feel good bill, that person had no legal experience, but it did take a baby step.

Since my exposure, I’ve realized there are good and bad people, that includes system workers. They need a job. This is all opinion, however, dig deeper…follow the money. Look at a system that rewards children removed from their homes, only to be lost in the system. Yes, some good. I am familiar with cases that it worked out for the best, but unfortunately more familiar with cases where it works out worse.

It is a system with incentives attached, bloated government and no real solutions. It is rotten — In my humble opinion.

DSSBLOWS August 5, 2015 at 10:12 pm

It’s obvious looking back at the articles reported by FITS in the past, nothing much has changed under the direction of Susan Alford. Same old tired story. Katrina Shealy is on the right track with the bill, called the South Carolina Child Welfare Reform Act of 2015, that will abolish DSS in its current form and establish a new Department of Family Protective Services. I certainly hope we see this bill to fruition as I believe this may be what it takes to turn things around for the this department, as long as they don’t take the same managers with them. Simply put, the house must be cleaned from the top to the counties. Nepotism and special favors must be halted.

Noa September 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Get rid of Amber

SendGWBtoTheHague August 6, 2015 at 7:31 am

Typical for the GOP. The smallest, sickest and weakest among us are the GOPs preferred targets for abuse and neglect because they cannot defend themselves. Frightened children have no money for the GOP, so they have no value to the GOP. The GOP would put down a dog, but would compel poor folk to live in poverty, disease and depravation because they are Pro Life. Yeah, right. May God serve them the consequences of their actions swiftly and severely.

Jaymee August 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

While serious problems with DSS exist statewide, some counties seem to be in dire straits. My goodness Spartanburg was mentioned many times in the survey. Start with Spartanburg and use them as an example. The comments show some underhanded nepotism and unfair promotional practices. Looks like for quiet some time inappropriate people have been put in place causing a disaster there. Locally, it appears it may start with the regional director Elaine Bailey. In my research it seems she may have been involved in the contract process when the foster homes were contracted out to SCYAP and her daughter jumped the ladder to a supervisor position, and now after the licensing process for foster home licensing has been moved back as a regional position her daughter yet again lands a coordinator job. And the madness continues down to the county level with the hiring and unfair promotions of family and friends. She does not set a good example, and in the end, it is the state office, Director Susan Alford, that allows this to continue. I believe there are good people throughout the state of South Carolina working with DSS who truly care about the children and who love their jobs. I think they are frustrated with the BS they have to deal with. Of course there are always those that are in it for a job and could care less. I believe we may have yet another dud here with the new state director. Sorry folks, the saga will continue.

nitrat August 8, 2015 at 9:33 am

“… Director Susan Alford, that allows this to continue…”

But, she is only the latest in 20 years of mostly off-the-street, no child welfare, no public welfare, no DSS experience, DSS state directors under the cabinet system. 20 years of a rudderless agency. 20 years.

The people hired off the street have an almost insurmountable learning curve and are, therefore, the most susceptible to the ass-kissing of most sociopathically self-serving members of the upper and middle level management .

As long as political hacks are put in these agency head positions, rather than career professionals, the problems will only get worse.

Add that to the Annie E. Casey send-those-children-home-no-matter-how-abusive-and-dysfunctional-their-families-are philosophy that guides child welfare across this nation and you can be sure it will not get better any time soon.

jimlewisowb August 8, 2015 at 10:10 am

Fucking Cockroaches were told this ad nauseam at the time they were debating the Cabinet system

They didn’t give a rat’s ass then and they don’t give a rat’s ass now

With a little luck and Karma the dumb sons of bitches will create a Legislators Only Hospital to treat themselves and their genetically challenged offspring/supporters

At the point the bastards start dying off because their Doctor’s and Nurses are retreads, retards, rejects and/or regurgitation off some bar’s toilet some changes may take place

Bob Hall August 6, 2015 at 12:29 pm

As usual the “fixes” that were made were like putting a patch on a 10 year old inner tube and putting it in a tire used on a car running at Darlington. Someone should look at the “new hires” for this agency. You may well find that some were lower level government employees (note I didn’t say “workers) who transferred out of their dead end (because they were not performing) jobs with other agencies. Have some first hand knowledge. Many of these hires were made at the recommendations of one or more members of the Senate as payoffs for support. Why not do something novel and bring in a team of professionals to do an audit. Simple six month contract get it done and out. Incentives to complete and have a couple of “test cases” thrown in as booby traps to be able to determine if the audit was being done adequately. It may take a series of short term contracts to get control of most of the problems. Then get rid of the causes of the problems regardless of whether it is procedural or people. Of course this being a “Right to Work State” will hamper the termination or demotion of employees since this is a “Right for Government Employees to “work” under their own terms”. These people have never heard of the “Paul Principle” That is when management determines an individual has met the terms of the Peter Principle (risen to their own level of incompetence) Paul fires them!!!

nitrat August 8, 2015 at 9:52 am

Why don’t you check and see how many times DSS has been audited by the SCLAC over the last 30 years:

I will admit LAC chose to do a half-assed job in 2006 because “Kathleen and Richielynn are cooperating”.

Red Rager August 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Children are dying in the foster care system throughout SC. Children are being placed sometimes more than 100 miles from their home due to the lack of foster homes. Workers are mandated to have face to face contact with the child each month and are required to provide court ordered visits with their families. Huge caseloads, lack of support, poor leadership., etc. No wonder the turnover is huge.

nitrat August 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

“Children are dying in the foster care system throughout SC.”
Could you list a link to a story on any kids in foster care who have died in the past 5 years?
…not to apologize for any foster parents or group homes which should have never been licensed…

Citizen Kane August 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

You want problems fixed? Ask the ones who do the work. They are the ones who will have the answers. The “leaders” and I use the term loosely, are the ones who have made this mess in the first place. Every DSS employee needs to be burning up the phone lines of their legislators and senators if they ever want to see a change. There is power in unity.

Soft Sigh from Hell August 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm

According to several posts here, collectively, the problems could be solved by the upper managers, middle managers, or line staff. Then where do the problems arise? That would seem to be the first important question to resolve.

Oenophilia August 6, 2015 at 8:33 pm

The abused and neglected children in South Carolina certainly deserve better than what we currently give them. Someone needs to step up to the plate and rid the agency of the “good ‘ole boy system” and all those who are a part of it. Good Lord! Spartanburg sounds like they need urgent help with a good house cleaning! Nepotism in the world of government is like marrying your first cousin.
Just because it is still done in secret in the south, doesn’t make it right!

CSD August 9, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I would be interested in knowing why Jessica Hanak-Coulter is no longer Deputy Director.

breanna November 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

because she was in control when the director was out sick remember? and when she was in control, things got worse and many more children died.

concerned August 9, 2015 at 7:20 pm

No surprise here….they still have the same management in place. Until they they do a good house cleaning, the same problems will remain.


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