Live 5 Investigates: Lack of car seats has caused delays in some DSS child removals

Lack of car seats has caused delays in some DSS child removals

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - When a child is in danger, the Department of Social Services’ top priority is getting him or her out as fast and as safe as possible.

But to do that for a young child, the car must be equipped with the proper car seat.

According to Brittany McClain, an investigator with Charleston County DSS, there’s been times where the lack of car seats has slowed down how quickly they’ve been able to get a child or children away from the scene.

“Sometimes it’s five to ten minutes. Sometimes its even longer than that,” McClain said. “Because, sometimes if we have an infant or a toddler, we’re scrambling to find car seats.”

In that time, not only has the actual removal been affected but it also takes a toll on those involved.

“The child gets antsy, and you have parents with emotions and kids with their emotions,” McClain said. “We’re just trying to move this child to get to a safe environment. We’re trying to get them out as soon as possible, so they can get some kind of normalcy back."

Last year in South Carolina, 330 children were brought into care by emergency protective custody.

In 2017, it was 326, according to Marilyn Matheus, the state’s director of public information and media relations for DSS.

“Most of our removal comes through the police department, so we are contacted by the police department, an officer, to say there’s a child in imminent danger and they are requesting a removal,” Darrell Morris, the deputy director of the Charleston County DSS, said. “If a car seat is needed, we have to provide a car seat in order to transport that child. That child cannot leave that location without a car seat.”

If car seats are not available, DSS has the ability to purchase more. But that takes time, something crucial during removals.

“Child car seats for all DSS state cars in Charleston are available,” Matheus said. “Car seats are always in demand because they can quickly expire.”

Car seats remain on the department’s wish list, and that’s why folks at one North Charleston church took matters into their own hands.

At the beginning of the month, dozens came together in an effort to raise more than 40 car seats for the cause; Life Center Cathedral hosted a charity basketball game.

"That's 40 kids we could get out of a bad situation quickly and not having to wait however long we have to wait,” McClain said.

More than 4,000 kids are in foster care in South Carolina and more than 200 of them are in Charleston County.

"That’s a lot of car seats,” Naja Banks, a DSS adoptions specialist, said. “We want to already be ready. That’s why this is so important and why we’re so grateful the community is helping us.”

All those car seats were donated to the Charleston County DSS offices.

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