COLUMBIA - A bill making its way through Senate committees will allow for the Department of Social Services to be more transparent and it would ensure coroners report the deaths of children to law enforcement.
The bill was drafted by Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, while working with the governor's office and DSS officials. It was done in response to the testimony a Senate DSS Oversight Committee has been receiving during its meetings.
"The things we talked about today are things that we strongly believe as a subcommittee in our DSS Oversight Committee that need to be done now," said Young after the meeting. "To the credit of the department and the governor's office, they said we can't provide certain info that you want stemming from these hearings, especially the January hearings, because of the way the law currently exists."
Young said the bill aims to change that, by making DSS more transparent. He stressed the bill will receive modifications as it moves through committees, but that it was important it be introduced and passed along as soon as possible so that it becomes law this year.
If it became law, the bill would allow for DSS to discuss unfounded cases. Currently, if a family makes a claim against DSS in public, the agency can't respond to clarify or dispute the claim.
DSS, however, won't be allowed to volunteer information of an unfounded case to the media. But it would be able to address allegations made against the agency, officials told The Post and Courier during a March interview, while the bill was being drafted.
Some of the amendments introduced on Wednesday also include requiring coroners to report deaths of children to law enforcement. Young said the move was in response to reports that some counties have not provided data to law enforcement in the past.
Rusty Clevenger, president of the South Carolina Coroner's Association, said he did not have an example of a coroner not reporting information on child fatalities to law enforcement, but that he was in favor of the measure regardless.
"Most of the time we're relaying information to each other," said Clevenger of his office's relationship with law enforcement. "Here, we report everything. We feel very strongly about child death investigations."
Cynthia Roldan can be reached 708-5891.