South Carolina: A Case Study in Contested Transformation
Stories from the Inside
"Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” -advice from a friend to Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
State: South Carolina
Presiding Agency: South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS)
Agency Mission: “The mission of The South Carolina Department of Social Services is to serve South Carolina by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and vulnerable adults, helping individuals achieve stability, and strengthening families. We do this through courage, compassion, and competence.”
Dead Babies Rate: +30% since Covid-19
On a cool December evening in Columbia, South Carolina circa 2019 four SCDSS case manager trainees finished up their final training class and climbed into one of the state-owned fleet vehicles to go home. They chatted endlessly as they merged onto I-26, grateful the ordeal was over and that they all survived. All that remained was a gentle, sloping ride down into the Carolina Lowcountry to the city of Charleston, where they would soon police the choices and behaviors of mostly poor people who were parents or caregivers to children.
Somewhere along the 90-minute route in this state-owned vehicle, one of these trainees broke out a bag of weed and rolled a blunt. Three of the trainees partook and one declined. None of the four reported the incident, and none were aware that the owner of the sack of weed had stuffed it into the door well and forgotten all about it.
That marijuana stash was found the next business day, a Monday, by another case manager about to head out to pick up some foster kids. This was immediately reported, and it soon became clear that the car was in the possession of the four trainees exclusively since it had left the compound at the beginning of the week before. It had been sitting in that compound for the weekend, unused.
The four trainees were called in. All admitted. None were fired. Statistically speaking, within a month each of these case managers would be removing children from parents for substance use, or managing cases brought based on parental substance use. This included marijuana use, which is illegal in South Carolina.
Welcome to another story of Child Welfare in America.
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