This evening in Charleston a state panel that looks out for the needs of South Carolina’s children will hold the first of three public hearings. At 5:30 at Trident Technical College, the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children wants to hear from citizens and organizations for children.
The committee, made up of three senators, three representatives, three citizens appointed by the governor, the state Superintendent of Education, and the directors of the departments of Mental Health, Social Services, Juvenile Justice, and Disabilities and Special Needs. The University of South Carolina supplies the Children’s Law Center as staff.
Harry Davis is the director of the center. He says the three hearings across the state are, “To give all of these individuals and organizations a very specific opportunity to come to the committee and help the committee understand from their perspective what the issues are that our children face.” He says the committee wants to hear any recommendations, ideas or suggestions.
One reason for the hearings: two recent studies show major problems for South Carolina’s children.
“Over 500,000 children in South Carolina live in some measured degree of poverty. Almost half a million children qualify for Medicaid benefits in any month. Over 370,000 children receive subsidized school meals. There are over 100, 000 children who receive special education services. Over 35,000 children were the subject of child abuse investigations over the past year,” says Davis.
Two other hearings will be in Columbia on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Gressette Building, Room 308. and Thursday afternoon Sept. 22, in Greenville at County Council Chambers.
The committee is co-chaired by Greenville Senator Mike Fair and Richland County legislator Joan Brady.
The committee has only been formed for about a year and a half. It is not a standing or a budget committee of the legislature. Its purpose is to offer policy recommendations to the governor and the legislature.
Davis says they must especially pursue legislation or policy that promotes sharing of programs, especially when state budgets have been cut.
He says, “It’s about a course of action in pursuit of better and smarter government.”