A highly-anticipated audit of South Carolina’s child welfare services released on Friday found a lack of qualified caseworkers, inadequate protections for children, and a significant underreporting of the true number of child fatalities at the Department of Social Services.
State law requires that county coroners report violent, unexpected, and unexplained child fatalities to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). But auditors from the Legislative Audit Council found 152 children’s deaths from 2009 to 2013 that were not included in the SLED database. That included 39 children who died from gunshot wounds and 25 more whose cause of death could not be determined.
According to the audit, it appeared coroners did not report the deaths to SLED in 104 out of those 152 cases. The remaining 48 cases are believed to have been reported, but did not appear in the SLED database. When contacted, some coroners said SLED had investigated the deaths and the coroners did not report the data because they believed the agency would already have the information.
The total number also includes some gaps in its criteria, such as children killed in collisions while their parent or guardian was driving under the influence.