Child Fatalities Indicated as Abuse and Neglect by DSS
Every number reflected on this website represents a child’s life tragically taken and a loss to a family, a community and South Carolina's future. DSS brings awareness to the complex societal problem of child fatalities indicated as abuse and neglect by providing information on the factors surrounding and contributing to these fatalities and providing information on the department's activities in each case.
Child fatalities reported on this website do not include all child deaths in South Carolina. This child fatality data cannot be directly compared to the data produced by other agencies such as SLED, DHEC, or the South Carolina Child Fatality Advisory Committee (SCFAC). In many cases, each department’s reports are dictated by the purpose and goals of the report and the restrictions imposed by state statutes.
The Department of Social Services is charged with investigating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Therefore, the child fatalities reported on this website are only those cases that the department has indicated for abuse or neglect. Definitions for abuse and neglect are outlined in the Children’s Code Title 63, Chapter 7.
Indicated means the Department of Social Services, after an investigation, has concluded that more likely than not, abuse or neglect caused the child fatality.
Currently, South Carolina State Statute limits the department’s ability to provide information related to unfounded reports.
In order to provide a broader view of the history and characteristics present in Child Fatalities cases, DSS has proposed amendments to this statute that would allow disclosure of information related to unfounded cases in order to better inform the public about the child fatalities indicated as abuse and neglect by DSS.
The data and information on this website is subject to change based on new information received from the State Child Fatality Advisory Committee and other professionals.
Often high risk families are touched by many organizations and individuals with the opportunity to change the course of their lives. With the information this website provides, agencies, communities and organizations can join DSS in improving interventions and provide appropriate resources to strengthen these families and ensure the safety of children.
DSS, with its partners, regularly analyzes cases of child fatalities caused by abuse neglect for identification of needed policy and practice change. It is vital to the success of these efforts that communities, agencies and organizations join DSS in targeting and improving services to families to reduce the risk of abuse to children.
Child Fatality Response and Review System
The Child Fatality Response and Review System provides a community-based response to child fatalities to help improve effectiveness and consistency of response to child safety, increase the timeliness and availability of information for investigations, and increase collaboration between agencies and communities in prevention efforts.
Components of the Child Fatality Response and Review System:
- New Policy and Protocol: A new policy and protocol has been implemented to bring consistency to the agency response and review of child fatalities.
- 24 hr. Child Fatality Debriefing: Within 24 hours a Child Fatality Debriefing is held to immediately assess the safety of surviving children and respond timely to any safety or risk concerns that are present.
- Internal Child Fatality Review Committees (Rapid Response) per proviso in counties without established reviews (7-10 days of death): Internal Child Fatality Reviews bring local coroners, SLED, local law enforcement, Child Abuse Pediatricians and DSS together to share information to further assess child safety and share information to strengthen criminal and child welfare investigations. Additionally, information gathered from these meetings is used to assess DSS’s services to families and to inform child abuse prevention efforts in the community.
- Consistent DSS participation in counties with coroner-led reviews: A number of counties in the state have an established Child Death Review process led by local coroners, as required by South Carolina state statute. DSS staff are now required to attend these reviews or hold a multi-disciplinary Child Death Review in cases where abuse or neglect is suspected, when one is not scheduled by the local coroner.
- Child Abuse Pediatrician Consultation: The new protocol requires the engagement of Child Abuse Pediatricians in the Internal Child Fatality Reviews to provide expert consultation to inform ongoing investigations.
- Child Fatality Review Focused on Continuous Quality Improvement (90 days after death): The DSS Child Fatality Review is designed to use information gathered from the Internal Child Fatality Review, the regional case review, and the supervisory review to evaluate the child welfare systems’ response to concerns of child safety and risk. Lessons learned from this review are used to make systemic change to strengthen the system’s response to child safety and to enhance child abuse prevention efforts with in the community.
- DSS Staff Support for Secondary Trauma: Policy now requires DSS leadership to assess the mental health needs of case managers and supervisors involved in child fatality cases and offer services and support as needed.
State Statutes for other Agencies and Committees Investigating and Reporting Child Fatalities
- South Carolina Coroner’s Association: South Carolina Coroners and Medical Examiners: South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 17, Chapter 5
- Department of Health and Environmental Control: South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 44, Chapter 63
- South Carolina Child Fatality Advisory Committee: South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 63, Chapter 11, Article 19
Links to further information on Child Fatalities and Related Issues
- South Carolina Coroner’s Association
- Department of Health and Environmental Control
- SC Death Statistics (SCAN home page)
- DHEC Infant Mortality annual report
- DHEC Interactive application providing access to the most recent SC death statistics (SCAN home page)
- SC Death Statistics (SCAN home page)
- South Carolina Child Fatality Advisory Committee Report