Grandparent Custody in South Carolina DSS Cases

grandparents can be foster care providers

In my South Carolina practice, grandparents ask of they can get custody of their grandchild in a DSS case.

So-called third-party victims of child abuse and neglect can play a vital part in any given South Carolina DSS action.  The grandparents, aunts and uncles and adult siblings can step up and become the child’s placement resource through relative placement.  DSS is required to conduct a preliminary investigation within twenty-four hours after the child is taken into emergency protective custody to determine, among other things, whether the child should be placed with a relative or other familiar setting.  During this time the department, if possible, should convene a meeting with the child’s parents or guardian, extended family, and other relevant persons to discuss, among other things, the placement of the child.

DSS will not automatically know that there are suitable relatives available.  Abusive parents do not always want their parents or siblings to know that DSS has become involved. 

While early identification of relative placement options is important, it is not always possible.  The longer the child is in foster care, the more difficult it may be to get the child into relative placement.

Why is relative placement difficult in these circumstances?

If reunification with the parents fails, DSS may eventually pursue a plan of Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) and adoption.  But remember, the court must consider what is in the best interests of the child.  An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can help you convince the court that the child’s best interests dictate placement in your custody.

Relatives often need legal representation to ensure that they can accept the substantial physical and financial burden of raising someone else’s child.  There will not only be added costs of medical and psychological treatment, but also the cost of transportation, food and clothing and extracurricular activities.

DSS should assist the relative in identifying and applying for such assistance programs as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps).  Schools may have programs in which children can eat and participate in activities at a reduced fee or even no fee.  A more complete list of programs available to children and families, including food and nutrition programs, can be found at

A relative may also request to be licensed as a foster parent

If the relative makes this request, DSS must inform the relative of the procedures for obtaining the foster parent license and the benefits of the license.  Foster parents receive a subsidy for each child in their care. DSS must provide information and reasonable assistance to a relative seeking a foster care license to the same extent that it provides this information and assistance to other persons seeking foster care licensing.  There are other benefits available to the foster child.

But there is a downside to foster care that you should consider before deciding if this is the best route for you and the child. 

Again, an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can help you make your decision and secure the best placement option for you and the child.

Answers to questions about becoming a foster parent can be found at




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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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