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SCDSS: Foster Situation Shows Modest Improvement

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NEW DATA RELEASED …

Last week this website reported on the unmitigated failure of former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s foster home licensing campaign.

The goal of this program – run under the auspices of the much-maligned S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) – was to approve 1,500 new foster families in the Palmetto State during the fiscal year that ended on July 1.

Did that happen?  No … in fact the agency didn’t even come close to hitting the mark.

Surprised?  Don’t be … abysmal outcomes are par for the course at SCDSS, which has been the subject of withering (and well-deserved) criticism over the past six years.

This week, the agency released its latest foster home data (.pdf) – showing a modest improvement in the overall situation.

According to the data, there were a total of 4,190 children in foster care in the Palmetto State at the beginning of the month – down 85 from 4,275 children reported the previous month.  Meanwhile there were 1,645 licensed foster homes – up 33 homes from 1,612 homes reported the previous month.

(For those of you new to this website, green numbers indicate a positive development … red numbers reflect a negative outcome).

As a result, the foster home shortage declined by 98 homes – from 1,347 in June to 1,249 this month.

Is this good news?  Sure it is … but the state is still nowhere near where it should be.  And there are serious questions about how this program is being administered.

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Sources tell us SCDSS’ top-heavy administration in Columbia, S.C. is crippling the efforts of front-line social workers – micromanaging them in ways that prevent them from acting in the best interests of children.  We’re also told that in its rush to try and license as many new foster families as possible, the agency is mandating the approval of individuals as foster parents who “have no business taking care of vulnerable children.”

In addition to excessive bureaucracy and lax standards, we’re also told foster care recruitment efforts have been hamstrung by a recent lawsuit settlement involving the state.

Stay tuned for more updates on that situation …

For those of you keeping score at home, SCDSS received $713.5 million in the budget for the fiscal year that ends tomorrow (June 30).  That’s an increase of a little over three percent from the previous fiscal year’s budget of $692.1 million.  In the coming fiscal year beginning July 1, the agency is slated to receive $734.6 million – a roughly identical percentage increase.

None of those totals include the estimated $1.3 billion the agency doles out annually in food stamps, either.  That particular line item was surreptitiously removed from the state budget by lawmakers back in 2014.

SCDSS was an unmitigated disaster during Haley’s tenure as governor – most notably as it related to multiple instances in which vulnerable children were repeatedly placed in abusive homes.  But the agency’s failure has been much bigger and broader than that – even after the former governor was forced to fire her first “rock star” agency director.

Can new governor Henry McMaster turn things around?  It’s doubtful.  Nearly six months into the job, we’ve seen nothing to suggest his administration is even aware of the rampant problems at this agency.

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