The children who call Epworth home are some of the most voiceless in our communities and state. With the ever changing climate of child protection in our country Epworth encourages our supporters to educate themselves on the current direction state leadership is taking in regards to placement priorities for children of abuse and neglect. 

Rev. John Holler, President of Epworth Children’s Home, wrote an article for the November 2011 edition of Epworth’s newsletter, The Record, addressing recent changes at the South Carolina Department of Social Services. We invite our supporters to click here for a copy of the letter that they can sign and send to their legislator.

Rev. John Holler’s letter to Epworth supporters:

Change is here and more change is on the horizon of South Carolina’s child care system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set standards for caring for at-risk children, and South Carolina, like every other state, has failed to reach the mandated standards. In an attempt to comply with Federal standards and improve services for children in our state, the SC Department of Social Services (DSS) is implementing a Program Improvement Plan (PIP).

Many of the proposed reforms contained in PIP will likely result in some much needed improvements in the way at-risk children and families are served, protected and empowered. Other changes may bring unintended consequences.

One of the goals of the DSS PIP is to rapidly reduce the number of children who are currently in DSS custody and reduce the number of children taken into custody each year. These reductions are to include recruiting additional foster families, increasing adoptions, placing children with relatives, and creating safety plans to keep children in their homes.

The evidence is mounting that in order to meet the ambitious goals of PIP, the leadership at DSS is losing sight of doing what is best for each child and every family. A rush to meet a prescribed set of numbers can easily result in individual casualties. 

Front line DSS case workers and supervisors are feeling tremendous pressure to remove children from children’s homes and foster homes in order to rapidly reduce by one half the number of children in state care. While the goal of finding permanent homes for children is a noble one, the structure is not yet in place to provide many children and families with the resources they need in order to maintain a safe and productive environment.

South Carolina’s children are being left in situations from which they would formerly have been removed, are being sent back into abusive homes in an alarmingly short amount of time, and are being placed in the homes of distant relatives without the community support structure that is needed.

In every state system of child care an array of child placements and services must be provided in order to meet each child’s unique needs. These placements and services can only be provided through a carefully constructed and implemented plan. One way you can help secure the most productive plan possible is to contact your state representatives and ask them to provide legislative oversight of the Department of Social Services’ Program Improvement Plan.

I sincerely believe almost everyone wants what is best for every child in our state. My hope is that we will take the necessary time to ensure that what we are doing in South Carolina is the best thing for each child and that we don’t meet the numbers but fail the children.