The recent shot taken at the DSS by the S.C. Policy Council wasn't the first critical look taken at the agency, nor will it likely be the last:
The S.C. Department of Social Services failed to meet all seven federal benchmarks measuring the agency’s ability to serve abused and neglected children, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.
A longtime Columbia children’s law attorney who was interviewed for the federal study called the results "pretty significant."
"They (DSS) have a real hard time identifying the kids and families who truly need intervention, and the kids and their parents who could be left alone or left alone with some basic services," attorney Jay Elliott told The Nerve when contacted last week.
Concerns that the agency is failing to protect the state's children are widespread, while the agency often opts to wield a heavy hand to become an accomplice to those seeking to use the agency as a tool of revenge or to conduct costly "fishing expeditions" on behalf of parties involved in ongoing domestic court cases.
This isn't the first time the Blogland has voiced concerns about how that agency is being run:
In the early 1990s, when yours truly went through a series of court hearings over custody of my daughter, I found that shortly after many of the hearings in which a judge would uphold my having custody of my daughter, I'd be contacted by DSS. Their purpose: to investigate yet another anonymous complaint which had been filed against me.
This is an experience which many South Carolinians are familiar with. While the agency seems quite adept at harassing and threatening families over anonymous complaints, they often fail to protect children from actual cases of abuse.
The Blogland hears often from those who've been subjected to such harassment. The worst instance was a co-worker who was the target of seven investigations in six years as a result of anonymous complaints, all of which resulted in no findings of abuse. He has spent several thousand dollars on legal representiation on these complaints and has custody of his daughter, whose mother has been repeatedly institutionalized and is only allowed supervised visitation.
In spite of a series of findings of no harm, the agency escalates the intensity of its response to each new complaint, removing his daughter from the home each time. While medical examinations have shown no harm, concerns have been raised about the emotional trauma inflicted by the agency's actions, causing the child to regularly fear been taken away from the only parent she has in her life.
If instances like these, along with the report findings, are representative of how poorly the agency carries out its mission, it is hard to see how children would be any worse off if the agency was shut down.
Those with their own stories of DSS abuse are encouraged to contact the Blogland. Reportees will be kept confidential.