Testimony from DSS Director Koller continues - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

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    DSS director grilled by Senate subcommittee

    Wednesday, May 21 2014 10:29 AM EDT2014-05-21 14:29:43 GMT
    The director of the state's Social Services Department was grilled by a Senate subcommittee seeking answers for parents and child advocates who say the agency is mishandling child welfare cases. DirectorMore >>
    The director of the state's Social Services Department was grilled by a Senate subcommittee seeking answers for parents and child advocates who say the agency is mishandling child welfare cases.More >>
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Testimony from embattled Social Services Department Director Lillian Koller continued Wednesday as she defended her agency's response to several high profile child deaths.

Koller was grilled by the Senate DSS Oversight Committee last month amid claims her agency was putting goals and numbers ahead of children.

But the director claims criticisms against her came from a "misrepresentation of the facts."

Koller initially told senators during their first hearing that the average caseworker load is six cases. However, Koller now says that was not the case.

"Perhaps not a single caseworker has six," Koller told senators.

Koller went further, saying that she doesn't necessarily need more caseworkers to help handle the load, but better, smarter caseworkers with more technology in the field.

She also pledged to step in and help workers if she discovers they have more than 30 cases.

DSS also recently implemented a policy that if a case worker cannot contact a child or family within 72 hours, they must notify law enforcement. That policy was just recently put in place  after DSS failed to make contact with the family of a child with a serious medical condition for more than three weeks. That child did die.

"Why 10 months later is there a plan of action when case loads have been surging and children, in my opinion, were being left in very vulnerable conditions," asked state Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland). "Why 10 months?"

"You want to know what I've been doing and what the governor has been doing about Richland County since last summer? So I have been, among other things here, training staff, University of South Carolina provided specific intake training for Richland County staff on Sept. 10, 11."

Some senators, meanwhile, remain unconvinced by Koller.

Those senators pointed out letters from DSS employees who were critical of Koller but were unable to testify for fear of backlash.

Senators also questioned if the agency did enough to protect 4-year-old Robert Guinyard, Jr., a child who was allegedly beaten to death with a curtain rod by his parents because the boy failed to control his bodily functions.

Koller is also asking the state legislature that DSS have access to the National Crime Information Center, which will help case workers find out if an adult in their system has a criminal record in another state.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about adoptions, foster placements and day care regulations. The committee will reconvene in two weeks to pick up the discussion.

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