On October 4, 2016, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel definitively approved a pioneering comparison that requires dramatic changes to South Carolina`s health care system, which has been troubled for years by a lack of nursing homes, an excessive number of falls cases, and the inability to provide basic health care to children. The comparison identifies two national child protection experts as independent co-monitors, Paul Vincent of the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group and Judith Meltzer of the Center for the Study of Social Policy. They will regularly publish public reports on the progress made by the State in meeting the benchmarks set out in the agreement. The agreement remains in force until the State fulfils and maintains any obligation for one year. The settlement also makes definitive a number of interim measures agreed last September during negotiations, including the end of practices such as: allowing children in state custody to stay in hotels and DSS offices; placement of children under 6 years of age in group structures; and to leave children in juvenile detention centres, even though they have completed their sentence or pleading because there is no place to place them with foster families. The South Carolina Department of Human Services is improving the way child welfare services are organized and delivered to children in foster care. In recent years, the Agency has made significant progress in implementing systemic reforms, with a focus on improving recruitment, engagement and management of fall loads. Many of these efforts are a response to the goals set out in Michelle H.`s federally supervised transaction agreement. Our work on these goals is also consistent with the federal guidelines established by the usdHHS administration for children and families and the new legal requirements of the Family First Prevention Services Act. Overall, SCDSS focuses on improving services for children and families.

Only a few of the important results: On June 3, 2016, after more than a year of negotiations, the parties jointly presented a proposed settlement agreement obliging DSS to make and maintain targeted care improvements across the country. The proposed agreement, which requires Federal Court approval, laid the groundwork for a robust oversight process in which two child protection experts regularly report on South Carolina`s progress in fully meeting the benchmarks set out in the agreement. Citing “serious concerns,” the authors of the House of Representatives budget last week rejected a request for $44.5 million from social services, money tied by the agency`s agreement to the prosecution of Michelle H. These budget drafters did not include money for the count in their general sovereign wealth fund budgets. This 2015 complaint had implicated the governor at the time. Nikki Haley and social services, which report directly to the governor, failed to protect the state`s most vulnerable children, many of whom died or were abused while under the agency`s care. The state and Haley filed a complaint and agreed to make improvements. However, lawmakers complained that they were not consulted in this comparison and bandaged their hands. Last week, the chair chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees received a letter from the current director of social services, Joan Meacham, which was made available to the state to say that the requirements of the transaction would cost the agency an additional $35.6 million in the following fiscal year. in addition to the $44.5 million that the Agency had originally requested….

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