COLUMBIA - The Department of Social Services will have the ability to share more information of cases of suspected child abuse that are classified as unfounded with lawmakers and the public if the Senate approves a bill that advanced on Tuesday to the floor.
The bill aims to make DSS more transparent and it would ensure coroners report the deaths of children to law enforcement. It was drafted by Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, while working with the governor's office and DSS officials. It was in was done in response to the testimony a Senate DSS Oversight Committee has been receiving during its meetings.
"There has been some testimony in some of hearings of cases that DSS determined to be unfounded where the families of children have come to testify and tell us what happened," said Young while explaining the bill to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "When we've asked DSS to respond, because they were unfounded cases, they can't tell us anything. We feel strongly that these changes need to be made." The bill would not make cases subject to public disclosure if a Senate committee summons information from DSS officials. But it will allow for DSS to defend itself and explain cases to the media and other officials, if a case is made public by others, such as the family involved.
Current law doesn't allow for the agency to clarify or dispute claims made against them. DSS, however, won't be allowed to volunteer information of an unfounded case to the media.
Young expects the bill to be on the calendar of the floor Wednesday and expects it to be discussed as early as Thursday.
"I'm just glad that we got it out the committee so that it can be discussed on the floor," said Young after the meeting.
The DSS Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet again on April. 16. DSS Chief Lillian Koller, who has been on leave since December following a stroke, is expected to stand before the committee.
Under doctor's orders, Koller has to "moderate" her activities until she is released to full duty, Marilyn Matheus, DSS spokeswoman, said in a previous interview.
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.