COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Acting Department of Juvenile Justice Director Eden Hendrick is one step closer to becoming the permanent director at the agency.

Hendrick was named Acting Director in September 2021, after the previous director resigned. A few weeks ago, Governor Henry McMaster nominated her to become the permanent director.

Hendrick was questioned Thursday morning by Senators on the Corrections and Penology subcommittee.

The panel asked Hendrick about her qualifications, why she wants the permanent job and what changes she has made at the agency over the last six months.

Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) told Hendrick, “I believe this is really what you want to do.”

Director Hendrick said one of the first things she did after taking over was move her office and other leadership back ‘behind the fence’. She said she believes this will help improve morale at the agency.

According to Hendrick, they have also been able to institute a plan to raise pay for staff who provide direct care to juveniles with plans to raise pay for all employees at the agency.

She said right now they’re looking at improving the conditions at their facilities.

“It needs a lot of work, not only for the aesthetics of it, but also the safety issues. There’s a lot of things we can improve to make DJJ safe overall,” Hendrick told lawmakers.

During Thursday’s hearing, Hendrick told lawmakers the agency continues to struggle with staffing. She said they have seen an uptick in applications but that hasn’t translated to more hires.

“It’s mainly SCDC or internal applications. We’re starting to see more from the outside. It’s going to take time,” she said.

Director Hendrick urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would reform the juvenile justice system in South Carolina. She said this would help alleviate the overcrowding they’re experiencing.

“It would limit the amount of status and low level offenders who come into contact with those violent offenders,” she said.

The subcommittee voted unanimously to send Hendrick’s nomination to the full committee.