DSS Responds to Criticism


By Crandall Sims

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- "These are real people, these are not numbers; these are children, these are families," says Senator Katrina Shealy, (R) Lexington.

In 2013, 157 children reportedly died, unexpectedly, according to SLED investigations, in 58 of those cases the Department of Social Services was involved.

"This is a very difficult job," says Malik Whitaker, DSS Regional Director.

Whitaker says critics need to walk in their shoes.

"Come see what we're doing, look at the full picture, come to these meetings to see how hard we're working," says Whitaker

Exercises like this at Thursday's meeting of DSS offices, statewide focused on keeping children safe.

While the meeting is one of at least six planned meetings held throughout the year, it comes just weeks after state lawmakers called for major changes within the agency.

"This is not a witch hunt, we're not out to cast stones. We need to find out what the problem is," says Shealy

Crandall Sims reporting, "During a subcommittee meeting here at the state house, DSS officials testified they had dozens of unfilled positions and they could use investigators to look into child deaths. We checked the state's job portal... as of today a total of 36 positions are open within the agency. But, I'm told that's not because anyone was fired or let go over the recent criticism. In fact, I'm told, over the past three to five years... dismissals have been minimal."

Thursday, an effort to do better seemed evident as workers lined up for an exercise to show how a unified agency can protect our children.

"A part of our process is to improve the skills and the practice of our folks, the hardworking people that are doing this very difficult work," says Whitaker.
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