Does DSS Always Remove a Child When It Suspects Abuse?

child being taken away

The South Carolina Department of Social Services (“DSS”) does not always remove an abused or neglected child from his parents.

South Carolina law clearly states that the goal is to protect the child from further abuse or neglect and to remedy any physical, emotional, or psychological harm the child may have suffered.  Maybe the threat can be removed, instead.

South Carolina DSS is not a therapeutic agency, and has no qualified treatment professionals on its staff.  Instead, remedial and therapeutic services are provided through community resources.  DSS will make a referral for an evaluation designed to diagnose the specific problem which led to the abuse or neglect.  DSS can then formulate a treatment plan designed to treat and remedy the problem.  This treatment plan usually includes specific assessments of the parents to determine if they are in need of specialized treatment such as alcohol and drug or mental health services.

DSS will also refer the children for evaluations.  Many parents learn through these evaluations that the child that they thought was simply resistant to discipline is actually autistic or, perhaps, suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (“ODD”).

The problem might be such that it can be remedied relatively easily and quickly.  Example: A National Guard member is on annual training at Ft. Jackson, SC.  His wife and child are involved in an automobile accident.  The mother is transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries and kept overnight.  There is a threat of harm by neglect because the only available caregiver is temporarily incapacitated.  But the father is located quickly through his unit and transported home within 24 hours.  As the child’s parent, he is its legal custodian and the child is promptly returned to him.

Sometimes DSS will investigate a report and find that the child has bruises on his buttocks which are consistent with having been spanked with a leather belt or a wire coat hanger.  In a case of excessive corporal punishment, the offending parent may agree to move out of the home pending completion of a treatment plan in order to protect the child from the trauma of being removed from his family, school and friends.

While our instinct is to not cooperate with an agency that is at times perceived as a child-grabbing vulture, a parent’s respectful attitude when DSS comes knocking may have a favorable effect on DSS’s decision to offer in-home treatment and services, rather than remove the child.


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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.

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