Q: Because you've adopted six children, you've had a lot of experience with the foster care system and the SC Department of Social Services. You also mentioned needing to have systems in place to care for children whose families cannot. What can be done with the systems in place to make them more effective.
A: It says a lot when good people will go out of our country to adopt children because our national and state systems make it too difficult. The problem with DSS is that they don't have enough people to keep track of the children in care. We need to adequately fund DSS and have a system in place to truly hold the agency accountable. The Foster Care Review Board has NO power in our state. Yet these boards are charged with providing direction and recommendations in each case. They work diligently to review and understand the cases before them, but lack the proper power/authority to see their recommendations carried out. We need to empower our Foster Care Review Boards.
Q: How else can the system be improved?
A: There needs to be a faster process for the termination of parental rights (TPRs) and give control of that to the Foster Care Review Board. The other big issue is that children don't have a say in what happens in their life. They need to. The Guardian ad Litem system is broken. We have SOME good guardian ad litems that make great efforts to check on the children and be an advocate for them. But I have met just as many who never visited or contacted the children we fostered. We even had guardian ad litems show up to court and meet our children for the first time on the courthouse steps. This is not being a voice for the child.
Q: But doesn't DSS and the family court judges have the final say? A: Yes, and unfortunately too many of those with the power to positively affect the life of a child have forgotten that's what they're supposed to be doing. Q8: And what have you done to address these issues?
A: I've shared all my thoughts with Shane Martin and the Foster Care Review Board. When I ran for state senate, children's rights were my priority. After losing to Shane Martin, I was deliberate in my contacts with Shane and pushed for his attention in the matter. Shane has been responsive to my concerns. When I was fostering children I fought and fought for THEIR right to be heard and did all in my power to keep them from being further damaged by the system that was supposed to protect them. My wife and I have written our representatives in support of any legislation that would give children more rights and we continue to express our views to those in a position to change the laws of our state.