DSS aims to balance foster family needs, agency resources - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

DSS aims to balance foster family needs, agency resources

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Dr. Stephanie Trevitz knew her six adopted children came from troubled backgrounds.

"Our gut told us we can't close our eyes at night and not know what's going on while we're asleep," Trevitz said. "We have motion detector alarms that let my husband know when there's movement at night. We're exhausted."

Two of Trevitz's children are autistic. Another has fetal alcohol syndrome and the remaining three were created in an incestuous relationship. Trevitz says, for 13 years, the Department of Social Services never provided her with the services or mental health support to improve her situation.

"When I called and asked them for help because I didn't have help from anywhere else," Trevitz said, "their option was to send him to a wilderness camp. We were trying to teach him how to live in a home."

Now, DSS is looking to resolve situations like this that they are confronted with. According to agency leaders, their policies have changed since Trevitz first adopted.

"What we do now is give them that information in advance," DSS Deputy Director Jessica Hanak-Coulter said. "They often have a very good relationship with the adoption staff and they have their phone numbers. We have combined those regional adoptions and the clinical team to make sure additional resources are available now."

Agency leaders say they also want to create strict ratio guidelines. That would ideally mean each caseworker would only have 24 children to care for.

"That's my concern," Lexington Republican Senator Katrina Shealy said. "Making sure we have enough people to cover the state. It is going to cost more money, but it's something we need to do."

In addition to asking for 200 full-time employees, the agency currently has around 100 vacancies that need to be filled.

One possible solution discussed today was increasing caseworker salaries or even providing incentive pay for caseworkers to become licensed.

The Oversight hearings will continue to look for resolutions as they meet throughout the summer.

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