DSS Director, Lillian Koller Testifies Before Lawmakers

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By Crandall Sims

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- For the first time in a series of Senate Subcommittee hearings about the state Department of Social Services, Wednesday, the agency's Director, Lillian Koller testified.

"To me the most important issue raised is what DSS and I are doing to improve child safety," says Koller

She testified that while the agency has made gains, improvements are needed.

"When a tragedy like Robert's takes place, someone has surely failed that child," says Koller

Koller cited four year old Robert Guinyard's case, reportedly beaten to death by his parents.

Koller says DSS made attempts to have Guinyard removed from the home and adopted, but were unsuccessful.

She testified Wednesday that after a review of Guinyard's case, eight DSS employees were let go.

"We are here because we think there's a problem," says Senator Joel Lourie, D-Richland

Wednesday Koller denied reports of a spike in child deaths with DSS involvement saying they've actually declined 25% since 2007.

"I'm going to use the Joint and Legislative Committee report, okay. In 2011, 67 fatalities that had DSS involvement. In 2013, 67 fatalities that had DSS involvement. How is that a 25% decline?" asked Sen. Lourie

Also discussed Wednesday, allegations of employee bullying.

"They call regular open meetings where they yell at us, they threaten us, they curse at us, they call us stupid, they call us dumb, trained monkeys," Sen. Lourie read from a letter sent to him by a DSS employee

Koller denied those claims.

A spokesperson for Governor Nikki Haley released the following statement: “Director Koller showed today exactly why the governor appointed her in the first place – she is a committed advocate for South Carolina's children, and someone who has overseen dramatic improvement in an agency that deals with some of the toughest, most tragic situations in our state. Governor Haley is proud of Director Koller, the staff at DSS, and the changes they have made, changes that have resulted in a decrease in child fatalities, an increase in adoptions, and the ability to provide more services to children and families statewide than ever before.”

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