DSS director testifies before panel investigating child deaths - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

DSS director testifies before panel investigating child deaths

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SC Dept. of Social Services Director Lillian Koller testifies before the Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee. SC Dept. of Social Services Director Lillian Koller testifies before the Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee.
The panel grilled South Carolina Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller for more than three hours Wednesday. The panel grilled South Carolina Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller for more than three hours Wednesday.
The director of South Carolina's Department of Social Services is testifying before a Senate subcommittee created to investigate the agency.

The investigation comes from claims that the agency missed cases of abuse that led to child deaths.

County coroners have testified in previous meetings about investigating the deaths of children whose care was connected to DSS. Last month, a Greenville woman told lawmakers the agency misinformed her family about the difficulties of adopting a teenage boy out of foster care.

Last year, a 2-year-old Mount Pleasant child, Elijah Washington died after DSS returned him to his biological mother. The mother's boyfriend, Bryan Seabrook, awaits a court date for allegedly killing Washington by child abuse when he was returned to their custody. Off-camera the child's other family members tell News 2 they were unsuccessful getting a response from DSS about why the boy could not stay with his grandmother.

The director of South Carolina's Department of Social Services, Lillian Koller, says she needs more full time positions to help handle cases around the state.

Koller's critics have said she tries putting children with biological families over foster homes. Her bio on the DSS website boasts accomplishments since she's been in office, "And we're ahead of pace to increase by 50 percent the number of children in long-term foster care who gain loving and supportive 'families for life.'"

Wednesday she told the subcommittee that she also wants to regionalize county DSS offices to provide a better network to start cases.

Koller said employee turnover has gone down and she can fund the positions but needs people to fill them.

In January, witnesses told senators the agency is overworked and understaffed.

Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie has called on Gov. Nikki Haley to fire Koller, complaining that the director has not yet testified, despite several requests that she appear. The agency has said Koller had a stroke in December and is obeying doctor's orders.

News 2 has been requesting interviews with DSS about this topic since November. They have never granted the request.


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