Senators: Documents show Koller violating state law - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Senators: Documents show Koller violating state law

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Senators say a stack of internal reports prove Social Services Department Director Lillian Koller is violating state law through her management of the department.

However, a one page response we received from DSS refutes one of the multiple allegations against Koller and the agency.

Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland) says laws have clearly been violated by DSS and should cost Koller her job.

"I'm using her numbers to show the agency is in complete meltdown," said Lourie.

Information from reports indicate several statistics troubling to senators:

  • Close to 50 percent of reports of suspected child abuse aren't answered within 24 hours.
    • DSS Response: "This statement confuses intake with investigations. Annual data in DDS April 2014 report confirms that more than 95% of referrals for investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect have timely initiation of investigation within 24 hours."
  • 20 percent of foster care kids aren't being seen by caseworkers at least once a month.
    • DSS Response: "This statement is false. Annual data in DSS March 2014 report confirms that more than 90% of the children in open foster care cases are seen by DSS caseworkers at least once a month."
  • 235 DSS cases have been open for more than 45 days.
    • DSS Response: "This statement is false. First, investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect are permitted to take up to 60 days to complete.  Annual data in DSS March 2014 report confirms 96.1% of investigations were completed timely. When Director Koller began at DSS, there were nearly 25,000 investigations pending more than 60 days in the system."
  • Some county DSS offices haven't been audited for close to seven years.

"We can argue about the numbers all day long, I don't want to argue about numbers. I want to talk about the kids, the advocates, the children that are being left behind because of the problems at DSS," said Lourie.

Child advocates like Jennifer Paige Greene say they've seen the damage these shortfalls have caused to children in the past 12 months.

"In that time, I've never seen so many skull fractures, broken bones, children, just so much," said Greene. "It's been a hard 12 months, I've seen more than I've ever seen in my whole career."

In a statement, DSS refuted claims that its county office audits are past due, but did not comment on any of the other allegations.

Gov. Nikki Haley's office also released a statement, defending Koller's tutelage of the department.

"Senator Lourie can call for Director Koller's resignation every day until the November election if he wants, since his motivation is so obviously political, but it won't change these facts: under her leadership child deaths are down 25 percent, adoptions are up 11 percent, and DSS has provided more services statewide than ever before. Governor Haley is proud of Director Koller and the work DSS is doing every day to better protect children and families and remains committed to seeing their progress and dedicated efforts continued," said Haley's spokesman Doug Mayer.

Koller also released a statement, saying she has worked hard to improve the "safety and well-being of our children" since she took office.

"While there are always things we need to improve upon, we have also made great strides in many critical areas. I do not intend to let politics or any personal agenda impede this agency's continued progress in making the lives of children and families in South Carolina better," said Koller.

More hearings with Director Koller are expected in the coming weeks.

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