AGENCY FOUND “GROSSLY NEGLIGENT” IN REMOVING CHILDREN FROM PARENTAL CUSTODY
South Carolina’s Supreme Court has reversed an appeals court ruling involving the scandal-scarred S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) – concluding the dysfunctional agency acted with gross negligence related to the removal of two children from their parents’ custody in 2008.
The case involves two special needs children, a five-year-old and seven-year-old, who were hospitalized in May 2008 after receiving medication from their parents to help them sleep at night.
The children’s parents – Diane Bass and Otis Bass of Fairfield County, S.C. – had a prescription for the medication.
So … what happened? Well, a local pharmacy screwed the pooch and inadvertently mixed the children’s medicine at 1,000 times the prescribed strength.
Unfortunately for the Basses, though, SCDSS didn’t bother to nail down this particular bit of information prior to yanking their children away from them.
Not only that, rather than admitting its error – the agency attempted to justify its decision to remove the children by trumping up additional charges against these poor parents.
And when the whole thing unraveled, the SCDSS caseworker claimed she was “unable to conduct a thorough investigation because she was unwell after a recent neck surgery, and was taking pain medication that affected her ability to perform her job functions.”
In its ruling (.pdf here), the state’s Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that the agency “acted in a grossly negligent fashion with respect to this investigation.”
Obviously this website has been sharply critical of SCDSS in the past for its failure to act decisively in protecting the best interests of vulnerable children. In fact our reporting on precisely that front helped lead to the resignation of the agency’s former director.
But just as it is terribly wrong to leave children in dangerous situations, it is equally wrong to remove them from their homes without cause.
SCDSS is supposed to know the difference. In fact taxpayers provide the agency with hundreds of millions of dollars each year expecting its workers to know the difference.
Clearly they don’t …
The court’s ruling comes at a tenuous time for SCDSS – which continues to underperform despite massive infusions of new taxpayer money.
Of course that’s not going to stop state lawmakers and governor Nikki Haley from throwing additional money at the agency, because in South Carolina government is never punished for its incompetence – instead it is rewarded with more of your money.