Foster children join class action suit against DSS and Gov. Haley

Foster children join class action suit against DSS and Gov. Haley

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new class action lawsuit filed Monday in Charleston against Governor Haley and the Department of Social Services. It's over major issues facing South Carolina's foster care system. In the 74 page suit, 11 children share their stories of alleged mistreatment. Attorneys and advocacy groups are demanding changes.

Ben Saunders, Associate Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, has worked with abused children in the our state's child welfare system for over three decades.

"I think our child welfare system is under great challenges right now," said Saunders.

A national children's advocacy group, Child's Rights, has partnered with South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center to bring a lawsuit against Governor Nikki Haley and the acting direct of DSS, Susan Alford.

In the suit, the plaintiffs, 11 children ages two to 17, share their experience in foster care. Many of them have been through foster homes in Charleston at some point in their life. One of the children included is a 16-year-old girl who was reportedly moved 12 times in eight years.

They're demanding three main changes to the state's child welfare system: improved health care options, more foster home and lighter workloads for each caseworker.

"When case loads get too high, I think children do suffer," said Saunders.

In 2014, the Legislative Audit Council found that half of DSS caseworkers had workloads far exceeding state standards. Some caseworkers were handling as many as 50 children's cases.

"We need more caseworkers, we need better trained caseworkers and we need the resources in order to attract and compensate folks at the level they deserve for the very difficult job that they do," said Saunders.

Also difficult? Finding foster homes.

"Getting people to take in foster kids is an incredibly huge challenge," said Saunders.

Governor Haley's press secretary Chaney Adams released this statement:

“Governor Haley believes that protecting South Carolina's most vulnerable citizens, our children, is the state's most important job. That's why the governor has been actively pursuing a new direction for the agency including hiring new case workers and human services specialists, enhanced training for those professionals and improving coordination with key stakeholders such as law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals and families. We will continue to pursue reforms at DSS—knowing that our work will never be done protecting the children of South Carolina.”

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