The state agency that handles disabilities and special needs agrees that it needs to make changes to better protect vulnerable children and adults in South Carolina.
The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) commission met Monday to examine a list of recommendations made by a recent audit. The Legislative Audit Council report recommends requiring a central adult abuse registry and uniform background checks of caregivers. It also recommended making annual training consistent across the board for all its staffers.
DDSN State Director Beverly Buscemi agreed with the recommendation. Buscemi pointed out that the Adult Protection Coordinating Council has developed the latest training that appeared on their website a week ago.
“So what our directive is going to say is that the providers in our statewide network have to provide training that is consistent with that and can use that as one of the tools,” she said after Monday’s meeting. “The information that is provided in it is consistent with also what is done for children.”
Buscemi said there are actually two separate trainings depending on the subject that is involved and the age of the person.
“For children, based on the state statute, sometimes you must report it to a different entity, for example, DSS (Department of Social Services),” she said. “Where for an adult you have to report, depending on the location, to local law enforcement or SLED. That is why there are two different trainings.”
Buscemi said the information also outlines who is required under state law to report possible neglect or abuse — such as a teacher, a healthcare provider, or an employee of the agency.
“There’s physical abuse and verbal abuse,” she said. “Exploitation often involves money, but it doesn’t have to. Neglect may mean that it was not a conscious act, but that somebody was harmed or potentially could have been harmed by inattention.”
Buscemi said some of the audit’s recommendations will take legislative action to change. She said it is important that lawmakers act because not all vulnerable adults are involved with her agency.
“It’s not just adults in our system with intellectual or related disabilities, it may be somebody in the community with a physical disability. It may be an elderly individual receiving care for wherever in the community. So that instruction applies across populations to any adult that is considered vulnerable, mental health for example.”
Buscemi said it is important to point out that her agency cannot legally say whether abuse, neglect, or exploitation is occurring. A 2007 state law only allows such a determination to be made by either DSS, local law enforcement, or the State Law Enforcement Division.