New state agency will oversee other department’s treatment of children

New state agency will oversee other department’s treatment of children

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A new independent state agency will be protecting South Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens – our children.

The Department of Children’s Advocacy will oversee multiple state agencies that deal with kids.

They are a one-stop shop where families can get some guidance on the services their kids are receiving. They can even voice their concerns via a hotline (1-800-206-1957) or their website.

When Heather Smith adopted her daughter, she went through a long, difficult process with the Department of Social Services. There were times her family considered giving up on the adoption. “To change a life for a child - is what makes the 2 and half years of going through courts, home visits, therapy, and studies – worth it,” Smith said.

Smith believes the new Department of Children’s Advocacy will be a big help for families looking to grow. “Potential foster parents and potential adoptive parents need an outlet to be able, to not circumvent, DSS but feel comfortable to go and express their concerns they’re seeing through the adoption process.”

The newly created independent department aims to make sure kids across the Palmetto State receive adequate protection and care from 9 state agencies:

  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of Mental Health
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Disabilities and Special Needs
  • John de la Howe School
  • School for the Deaf and the Blind
  • Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School

Trey Ingram with the foster care reform group Speak Up, SC, said, “The main reason we thought was such a good idea was because it brings accountability to the system.”

Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) filed the original legislation that created the department. “It’s kind of a watchdog type agency, an ombudsmen, where people can go and have a place to do that so we can be at the top of the game and not be at the bottom of the game.”

In addition to taking complaints, the Department of Children’s Advocacy will also independently investigate incidents involving a state agency.

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