Foster parents plead for DSS reform in emotional testimony to se - - Columbia, South Carolina

Foster parents plead for DSS reform in emotional testimony to senate committee


New emotional testimony into allegations at the Department of Social Services is prompting action at the State House.

According to DSS, the agency is placing more children than ever in adoptive homes-close to 1900 since 2011, but testimony heard Wednesday indicates these matches sometimes can cause more harm to both the child and adoptive family than good.

Two years ago, Winton Swanson and her family had the resources and the heart to adopt a teen who lived in a group home.

"This has been a game changer for our family and has just about torn us apart," Swanson said.

Swanson said DSS misled her gamily about the issues associated with that child.

"He has abused our dogs by kicking them and poking them with sharp objects," Swanson said. "He picked the lock where my biological son was asleep and beat him with a belt. Dr. Richards with Greenville psychiatry told us he will destroy our family and eventually hurt us if he's already hurting animals."

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland Co., said some families are left to deal with the ramifications of DSS.

"Unfortunately you're left to deal with the ramifications of - in my opinion- an agency that just pushes and pushes and pushes, and doesn't take into consideration your family and what it does to you," Lourie said.

Another concern at today's hearing was the lack of oversight and regulations for in home daycares.

Kathryn Martin testified that her infant daughter died at a daycare that was allegedly caring for up to 23 children when it was licensed for just six.

"Unfortunately the DSS website is very gray and it's hard for parents to distinguish between licensed and registered child care facilities," Martin said.

Senators say they are working on legislation to require more inspections for daycare centers and more transparency within DSS.

"There is some stuff we can do differently," said Jessica Hanak-Coulter, deputy stat director at DSS. "That is something we're working with senator young about the transparency and he is working diligently with us on that."

Director Lillian Koller is scheduled to testify in front of the committee on April 16.

Last week senators expressed their anger over her absence from the hearing which Koller attributed to heart concerns.

Some senators have called for Koller to step down.

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