Child Protective and Preventive Services are offered to families by the South Carolina Department of Social Services which is mandated by law to protect children from abuse or neglect within their families, in foster care, or by persons responsible for the child's welfare as defined by statute. Services are provided to strengthen families; to enable children to remain safe in the home; to temporarily remove from parental custody a child who is at imminent risk of harm; or to pursue termination of parental rights and assure the child permanency in a substitute family if the custodial family cannot be preserved without serious risk to the child. Primary elements of this mission include:
Any person under the age of 18 who is believed to have been harmed or placed at significant risk of harm by their parents, guardians, or other caregivers defined by state statute can receive CPS services. See Section 63-7-20, Definitions.
Physical neglect is one of the most widely recognized forms of neglect. It is important to keep in mind that all incidents in which a person fails to provide for the basic needs for a child are necessarily considered neglect.
Some Indicators of Neglect: underweight, poor growth pattern, and failure to thrive; inappropriate dress, consistent hunger, and poor hygiene; consistent lack of supervision; unattended physical and medical problems and needs; and abandonment.
Some Indicators of Physical Abuse: human bite marks, lacerations or abrasions, burns in the shape of an iron, grill or cigarette, immersion burns and any other significant unexplained marks or bruises.
Some Indicators of Sexual Abuse: difficulty walking or sitting; torn, stained or bloody underclothing; pain, swelling or itching in genital and/or anal area; pain during urination; bruises, bleeding or lacerations in genital and anal area; veneral disease.
Some Indicators of Mental Injury: speech disorders; lags in physical development or failure to thrive; hyperactive and/or disruptive behavior; isolation; withdrawn.
Child protective services as provided by DSS involve coordination of services provided by many state agencies and community organizations. These services are identified with the family and in collaboration with the service providers in an effort to meet the families’ specific needs. Intervention in child protection cases requires that a worker has a working knowledge of a variety of treatment modalities and resource development skills.
DSS caseworkers assess reports of child abuse/neglect to determine the validity of the allegation and to determine the type of intervention necessary to protect the child from further harm. This includes determining whether the child is "at risk" of being abused or neglected in the future and identifying the family's need for support services.
Sometimes this treatment intervention requires the temporary placement of children out of their home(s) to ensure their safety. Child protective services caseworkers also provide information and referral services to families requesting assistance not related to abuse/neglect.
Services such as mental health counseling, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, parenting skills, medical services as appropriate, and other remedial services are provided as necessary when it is believed that the service will assist the family to protect their children. Foster care is a service provided by DSS when it is determined that a child cannot be protected in their own home.
State law provides that certain people are mandated to report when they learn information in their professional capacity that leads them to believe that a child is harmed or at significant risk of being harmed (abused or neglected) by their parent, guardian or other caregiver as defined by statute. All other persons may report when they believe a child is harmed or at significant risk of being harmed. See Section 63-7-610, Persons Required to Report.
Mandated reporters can access on-line training at the Children’s Law Center website.
The person who believes that a child has been or is being harmed or is at significant risk of being harmed should call the county DSS office where the child resides. Trained staff will assist the person to make a report and assess the information to determine if it meets screening criteria for investigation. Reports also can be made to local law enforcement offices who will communicate with DSS to coordinate an investigation.