Gov. McMaster directs DSS to prevent placement of unaccompanied minors from southern border in SC

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order on Monday directing the state’s Department of Social Services to prevent the placement of unaccompanied minors from the southern border in South Carolina.

Specifically, the order directs DSS to prevent the federal government from placing undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border in South Carolina foster care and group homes.

According to Gov. McMaster’s office, the executive order comes following correspondence with DSS on the state child welfare system’s capacity to accommodate an influx of minors.

In a letter dated April 8 – which you can read by clicking here – DSS Director Michael Leach informed Gov. McMaster of the federal government’s preliminary inquiries to transport an unknown number of unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border and place them in South Carolina foster care and group homes licensed by DSS.

Gov. McMaster responded to Director Leach saying, “South Carolina’s children must always be given first priority for placement into foster care and the State’s strained resources must be directed to addressing the needs of its children. Allowing the federal government to place an unlimited number of unaccompanied migrant children into our state’s child welfare system for an unspecified length of time is an unacceptable proposition. We’ve been down this road with the federal government before and the state usually ends up ‘on the hook.’” 

The governor also requested that the agency determine any potential risks posed to the state’s child welfare system and to provide him with potential avenues to mitigate them.

Governor McMaster determined that the potential risks outlined in another letter from Director Leach, coupled with the Biden Administration’s inability to address the growing humanitarian crisis on the border, left the State no choice but to act.

According to his office, those risks include:

• An influx of minors occupying foster care placements and services would necessarily strain the State’s capacity for timely and stable placements of South Carolina children who enter the agency’s care.

• The federal government plans to financially incentivize private providers in the short term to the extent that these facilities may prioritize the placement of unaccompanied migrant children over DSS-related placements.

• The State may ultimately incur a long-term financial burden if families are not located in a timely manner and the federal government ceases providing direct support for unaccompanied minors.

Governor McMaster toured the US-Mexico border over the weekend, where he saw firsthand what members of the South Carolina National Guard have been doing to secure the border.

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