Last week outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford held his final cabinet meeting where members were asked to highlight the accomplishments of their departments. Kathleen Hayes, director of the Department of Social Services reported that they have successfully placed more children in adoption in the last three years than in the history of South Carolina.
We have made special efforts in the Department of Social Services to reduce the amount of time that children wait for adoption. And these adoptive children are waiting on average 5.6 months less than they were when I first taught, and we are proceeding to try to bring that time down.
She says that they have reduced the number of children in foster care by keeping children safely in their homes whenever possible.
Hayes said that job placement has been a significant accomplishment as well:
One of the things that is not well known is that the Department of Social Services has placed 33,000 people in jobs since 2007. And that’s something that we’re working really hard to make sure that we can continue to do. And this is significant to our agency because this is at a time when unemployment has been extremely high. So I’m very proud of the staff at the Department of Social Services for that.
She reported that the agency attained higher than minimum wage jobs for clients despite record unemployment in the state.
Hayes said they were able to provide nutritional assistance to families while managing a 50 percent increase in caseloads feeding over 800,000 people each month.
One of the challenges that the department’s had is an incredible caseload increase because of the recession. And we have had in our food stamp program over a 50 percent growth in the number of people that need these services. This year we’ve projected that we’re going to be serving over a million people in South Carolina, of those, half are children…
Hayes says that the federal government has been paying for the cost of this program and because of that they have probably brought more than $1.2 billion into this state for these families to be able to feed their children.
According to Hayes, DSS has moved to modernize its major programs:
This is a major change in the culture of the agency. We are moving toward trying to make sure that people can access DSS services online through community centers, through food banks, through churches through synagogues, through whatever natural community resources they have, reducing the times they have to come to DSS for services without reducing any kind of eligibility requirements.
The department has been recognized by national officials for implementing this major reform without the resources available to other states.
DSS is currently under fire by the Lexington County Sheriff’s department following the death of a 60-year-old woman whose living conditions and poor home care was reported to the department by a doctor several months ago.
The Department of Social Services by law is charged with assuring the safety of vulnerable adults being cared for at home. The agency says it is investigating.