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Reflections to Mark Our Way Forward

SCDSS Program Area Accomplishments

A report from State Director Michael Leach, marking his first, six months in leadership.

November, 2019

It has been six months. I am grateful to be a citizen of South Carolina and serving DSS.  During the last six months, I have visited over half of our county offices and plan to visit the remaining counties in the coming months. I have also spoken with hundreds of staff, in person and via telephone and email, as well as heard from over 1,000 community members, partners and foster parents through Community Forums and Town Halls that the agency has hosted. Through all of that I have learned that while we have a lot of work to do to improve our service to the children and vulnerable adults we serve, we also have a committed, passionate team here at DSS that will make this system transformation possible.  

Economic Services

  • The Healthy Bucks program, an incentive for SNAP recipients that encourages eating more fruits and vegetables by providing $10 in Healthy Bucks tokens for every $5 spent on EBT cards, is already outperforming last year’s Healthy Bucks performance by over 20% year.
  • The Food and Nutrition Services Unit has brought on three new Healthy Bucks vendors/farmers; two in Richland county and one in Greenville county. We now have 30 vendor locations in 20 counties across the state providing fresh produce to SNAP recipients and increasing their spending power at local farmers’ markets.
  • Focused effort is underway to enhance Economic Services training through USC.


Adult Advocacy

  • Adult Advocacy Division is working with IT to improve our emergency plan for Adult Protective Services (APS) by creating a map that pinpoints the location of vulnerable adults in their homes within an evacuation zone.
  • APS is working to develop short-term stabilization beds to support adults that do not have a place to live. We have secured some and will be working to secure others.


Technology & Organization

  • The Division of Technology Services was awarded the 2019 Innovation Technology runner-up award at the Fall SC IT Directors Association Conference for the development and deployment of the SC Comprehensive Employment and Training System (SCCETS). (Of course, I think they should have been 1st place!) This system turned the age-old use of spreadsheets into a secure, online portal that allows our SNAP E&T professionals and providers to research and input data from anywhere in the state. This great tool has been featured on a nationwide webinar as a model platform for other states!
  • The new Employee Trauma Support (ETS) online program is up and running, including an ETS program survey to assess SCDSS Organizational Stress and Culture.


Child Care

  • DSS has been working with child care agencies around the background check process for their workers. To lessen the financial burden on child care facility operators during this initial roll-out year, DSS will use federal funds to offset the costs providers incur when obtaining fingerprint scans for their employees. Child care facilities may be reimbursed for 50% of the background check fees paid on behalf of their employees and volunteers. Read more:

Child Support:

  • PACSS and the Statewide Disbursement Unit (SDU) are now operational statewide and have received federal certification.

Child Welfare:

  • The Finance and Child Welfare Divisions worked collaboratively to create a review process to increase penetration of federal Title IV-E child welfare funds and to reduce the risk of lost federal revenue moving forward.
  • At no cost to DSS, partnership with a leading child welfare agency will afford technical assistance to conduct safety systems analyses.
  • We have secured almost half a million dollars in private grant funding to advance work in three crucial areas of child welfare improvement.
  • The Child Welfare Team has finalized a Program Improvement Plan that had been in draft form for over 2 years.
  • Two new data dashboards have been developed and added to the DSS public website. and 
  • The data updates daily at 5:15am. The dashboard provides data on how many children are in foster care in each county of the state.
  • A new policy process allows frontline staff to provide feedback and have input on policy creation at the state level – a first!
  • Development of child well-being teams to support case managing staff is ongoing.
  • Rollout of an updated Child Abuse Referral intake tool began on November 4th.  
  • Approximately 80 children are scheduled to be adopted by 60 families on November 25th – a day SC Adoption Day – a day proclaimed by Gov. Henry McMaster as SC Adoption Day in observance of November as National Adoption Month.
  • We have a renewed relationship with Casey Family Programs and are leveraging assets to work on:
    • Parent Voice partnerships
    • Simulation lab trainings for over 250 staff
    • Creating a handbook for foster parents, birth parents and kinship parents
    • Peer-to-peer learning opportunities to enhance work in Well-Being, Regional Leadership, Intake and Independent Living
  • Peer-to-peer learning opportunities to enhance work in Well-Being, Regional Leadership, Intake and Independent Living

Every month since May, a new State Director’s Monthly Challenge has been issued aimed at helping us keep focus on improving our culture. Our November challenge is:  Look for a coworker who is struggling and find a way to help him or her.  

There is still a lot of work to be done and we are committed to doing everything we can to move our system to one that truly improves the safety, permanency and well-being of children and vulnerable adults, helping individuals achieve stability and strengthening families through courage, compassion, and competence. We’re on our way!





Child Welfare Services Transformation

Best Outcomes for Children and Families

Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.