- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The number of child abuse and neglect complaints in South Carolina has increased by more than 13,000 in the past three years.

The Department of Social Services received more than 40,000 complaints in 2015. The agency fielded just over 27,000 complaints in 2012.

Centralizing where abuse allegations can be made through a toll-free telephone number and hiring more caseworkers has led to the increase in complaints, DSS Director Susan Alford said.

“We don’t want to miss a report. What we have to be careful of is maintaining our staffing levels to support that increase - we need to assure we have adequate numbers of highly trained intake workers, to do timely and effective screening of incoming calls, and we need to retain enough caseworkers to manage increased caseloads.,” Alford said in a statement to The Greenville News (https://grnol.co/29bOeQH ).

DSS thinks the increase in reports will level out soon, as they have in other states that implemented a centralized reporting system.

Advocates for children said while it is good that more abuse and neglect claims are being reported, the state needs to do more to address the root cause of neglect - like poverty and a cycle of abuse that continues through generations. The latest Kids Count profile of South Carolina reported 27 percent of children in the state lived in poverty,

“This is a fundamental question: Are we saying these parents are maltreating their kids because they are poor? Sometimes you go and there’s holes in the floor because there’s no money to fix them,” said Sue Williams, executive director of Children’s Trust of South Carolina.

A state Senate committee has spent years looking at DSS, and one member thinks South Carolina needs to figure out a way to end the cycle of poverty in some families.

“The states that annually rank high in that report from Kids Count are states that have an educated workforce, more students graduating from high school on time and higher paying jobs than South Carolina,” said Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken. “Many problems we face in the state in this area are the result of generational poverty.”

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Information from: The Greenville News, https://www.greenvillenews.com

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