Mable Simmons Must Go
Stories from the Inside
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” ~Nelson Mandela
In Berkeley County, South Carolina, Mable Simmons squats on the power she holds over the Investigations and Foster Care programs. Though a baby died on her watch in January of 2021, she still holds the position she has held for years: Program Coordinator. The County Director resigned, but the person most responsible for this sad state of affairs, Ms. Simmons, got to stay. So much for systems integrity.
Mable is a squatter of intense capability and has survived in South Carolina’s extremely dysfunctional mandated Child Welfare system for almost 30 years. She’s successful in her squatting not because she’s smart, but because no one with power is looking, or the people with power who do look just don’t care. Just a month prior the baby’s death, she oversaw the return of two teenaged girls to a mother who was similar to Stella in her belief that she could a) treat her kids however she wanted, and b) bulldoze her way through the child welfare system that sought to stop her.
This is a story about what Mable Simmons did to a 16-year-old girl who had the gumption to tell the truth to the only system she could turn to for help: South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). This is also the story of how power functions in South Carolina’s mandated Child Welfare Agency, and how people can exploit it so easily simply by shrinking and acting in isolation. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, they will say. South Carolina has it on the record what these sibling youths faced, and it chose to do nothing with that information. The full details still sit quietly in a drawer in that county while leadership in the state yawns at all attempts at actual transformation. It can’t even hold individual counties accountable, for God’s sake.
Director Michael Leach also played a starring role in the monstrous finale of the case of these two girls. He will tell you he did his very best, but his best isn’t good enough any day of any week. If it was, he’d be empowered to check the Mable Simmons’ in his workforce, and there are many. He doesn’t, and he’s now so subsumed by the culture of “I Can’t” that permeates South Carolina’s Department of Social Services that he never will. South Carolina failed these sisters like it does so many kids and youth every single day.