When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

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South Carolina DSS removal of a child is, many times, not in the best interests of the child.  Of course, a child who is being systematically physically or sexually abused should not remain in the care and custody of an abusive parent.  But what about an eight-year-old child from a low income family that is not getting proper nourishment or who is habitually absent from school without excuse?

In an earlier post we asked “Is removal of the child called for in this case?” and answered “Maybe, maybe not.”   Why?  Because it all depends on the circumstances.  We listed earlier several principles (South Carolina Code Section 63-7-10) on which the law pertaining to child protective services is built.  All are important, but the following have particular meaning, and can be used by the parent as a sword or a shield.

(1) Parents have the primary responsibility for and are the primary resource for their children.

(2) Children should have the opportunity to grow up in a family unit if at all possible.

(3) State and community agencies have a responsibility to implement prevention programs aimed at identifying high risk families and to provide supportive intervention to reduce occurrence of maltreatment.

(4) Services for families should be accessible and designed to encourage and enable families to adequately deal with their problems within their own family system.

(5) All child welfare intervention by the State has as its primary goal the welfare and safety of the child.

(6) Child welfare intervention into a family’s life should be structured so as to avoid a child’s entry into the protective service and foster care systems if at all possible.

Why are these important?  Because they demonstrate that removal should be a last resort.  Remember, when a child is removed from its home, he is placed in a foster home licensed by DSS.

Assuming that DSS has probable cause to intervene in your life, what are the alternatives to removal?  The best alternative is to leave the child in the physical and legal care of its custodian.  But that may not be realistic.  The next best solution is to place the child in another familiar home, such as with a relative or close family friend.

Remember, and this is in your favor, DSS does not want to place children in foster care. It has a limited number of foster homes and a lot of abused or neglected children to provide for.  DSS should ask you at the onset of the case if there are any relatives who can assume temporary custody of the child pending the outcome of the case.  If she fails to ask this important question, you should take the initiative and ask the caseworker about alternative placement.

Remember, this is the time to suck it up and think about your child and put aside your anger, hurt feelings and embarrassment.  No matter how much you hate DSS at this point, by cooperating with DSS to identify placement resources, you can help reduce the shock and confusion that your child will surely experience.  This is your first chance to show DSS, and even more importantly, the court, that you can be a reasonable, protective  and loving parent and are not the out of control monster DSS will try to portray you to be.

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Written by

Graves H. Wilson, Jr. worked as a staff attorney for the South Carolina Department of Social Services in Dorchester County, South Carolina from 2005 to 2011. He now represents clients involved in DSS cases--parents, grandparents, or other interested parties. He practices state-wide and accepts cases in all South Carolina counties.


  1. Laura

    When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

    WOW – In the land of the textbook life your article is dead on. However, in the land of REAL LIFE, your article is not, shall we say, a realistic preview of dealing with DSS. First off, the primary goal is not welfare and safety, its about receiving TITLE IV FUNDING. Also, they do not ask to place children with relatives. If the CPS victim/lead source doesn’t know they can offer up relatives to place children with CPS DOES NOT offer information regarding same. Secondly, the kid is placed in foster care for 90 days (3 months for the county office to receive funding) while home studies are done on the relatives. You left that part out. Also, no matter how reasonable, loving or protective you are, the entire system (I can spell out A-Z how it works if you like) is designed to STRIKE the unsuspecting parent with a surprise visit, offer as little information as possible about the allegation(s), intentionally leaving the victim parent unprepared to go before a judge and act as if any information given them (no matter how absurd) is “what they know”. They are a ludicrously superfluous entity. Happy New Year!! 🙂

    • Graves H. Wilson, Jr.

      When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

      Thanks for your input.

    • Erica Seemann

      When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

      this is exactly what happened to my husband and i. we had just set up an appointment for parenting class on September 10, 2014 and my caseworker Samantha Bryant went to see my boys at school the next day September 11, 2014 and the next thing i know my husband is calling and saying that the boys are being taken and that new allegations have been made against him. it took us almost two months to finally get the parenting class appointment and then the next day our kids are being taken and new allegations are made and they were all false allegations. it is now march and my kids are still with my husbands parents and we have had one thing after another being brought on us that dss wants us to do and we still are not looking to get them back till the summer hopefully because we want them to finish out the school year where they are right now and we still have more things to complete for dss. please help us figure out what to do because my caseworker keeps saying we are gonna go to court for over two months now but she still doesnt know when and our boys are starting to say that they may not even come home and are acting like me and their daddy dont want them anymore when we are doing everything we can to get them back

    • pamela v

      When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

      Laura… You are so right. We have no help in battling Spartanburg DSS. They lie and change dates. Offer no response to call or emails. We are then told “do not call so much” They have backed my son in a corner. I have written the Governor for help. I cannot afford an attorney. My 6 grandkids have been in their custody since July . My son ahs done everything to complete his case plan. now they say they will violate his probation because he is behind in a support payment he cannot afford and continue to maintain all the requested things the state requires. I just pray for help from someone. My grandkids are being medicated for behavior and depression. They just split up my 7 year old twin grandsons and moved Liam hours away to Columbis because of behavior issues. He cries and fights and wants to come home. I see this as mentally abusive. Our backs are against the wall and I am in fear of these people. Any info on how to proceed?

  2. pamela v

    When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

    Dss is not about reuniting the family. At this moment they have my 6 grandchildren in custody since July of last year. they sites neglect because of a home that was old falling down and cluttered. the kids were in good health and happy. My son applied for help to move and was denied! The landlord would not repair things . My son was making minimum wage and waiting on a better job. Now months later he was charged with neglect. He felt threatened by DSS who told him to pleade guilty and not go to trial because he would lose the kids and end up in jail. The caseworker is so unapproachable. I have tried to get the kids since last july.The kids were split up. Placed on medication because of behavior and depression. Now because my 7 year old twin wants to go home and acts out. They are medicating him and moved him away from his twin brother in Spartanburg to Columbia. They have never been separated. My son got his job and moved and now has been maintaining the home and bills. They told him he had to get a car large enough to transport all the kids which he di at a cost of 400$ per month.. after the second court date they told him he was behind in support payments. Something he never knew until he was behind. It is now more than 10,000 dollars. He must keep up with the home and the car. Pay the probation, the fees for classes, They are threatening him now to violate his probation and jail him. He will lose his job and the home and the DSS will take his children. How can this happen. SC DSS is the worst agency. They make money on these kids and adoption in this state is the highest in the country. I pray for an attorney to help him.We cannot afford much. He has been denied counsel from the beginning. I am in fear of what is going to happen. I know we are not alone. We have met others in the same position. So don’t let there banner pages that say Family Reunification fool you. These people take your kids..mentally abuse them and drug them to illicit the proper response ..they don’t want to hear kids cry to go home….

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