Special Efforts Being Made in South Carolina to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

To address heavy child welfare caseloads and caseworker turnover, DSS developed multiple strategies to increase staff retention. These strategies include increase in salary for front line workers to remain competitive with other states, development of a career ladder to provide opportunity for advancement, second and third shift pilots to distribute workload and strategies to address caseloads, a tuition reimbursement and student loan forgiveness incentive, salary increases for length of service, new supervisory ratios, and guided supervision of staff.  In 2016, DSS received funding to hire 35 front line human services caseworkers to decrease caseloads and to improve quality in the delivery of services.  Additionally, DSS received funding to hire 51 additional caseworkers to expand the second and third shift pilot program. In 2017, DSS’ child welfare division has requested an additional $18 million to improve the state’s child safety net; most of that money would pay for more than 250 new workers, including 163 caseworkers to lower caseloads  [Recommendations 5.1a, 7.3]

DSS is updating its website to not only provide an updated look for the Department, but to better serve the public and its partners by making information more accessible.  For the last two years, the Department has published data on its website regarding child fatalities caused by abuse or neglect.  DSS is working to enhance its child fatality prevention practice by developing a new child fatality review process that begins from the time of intake, includes a rapid response review of information by a multi‐disciplinary team including child abuse pediatricians, coroners, and law enforcement, and concludes with a review that will reveal “lessons learned” that can be shared with the public, and therefore, can be used to improve prevention efforts on a systemic level. [Recommendations 5.3f, 6.2]

In 2016, the state General Assembly called for task forces to be created in each county to analyze child deaths due to abuse or neglect and determine whether any other siblings in the home may be in danger. These task forces — made up of a coroner, DSS staff member, law enforcement and other involved agencies — were to be in place across the state by October 2016. They came on the heel of a report of 12 deaths of children in state care.  [Recommendation 6.3]