South Carolina child welfare workers would be required to turn over a child’s full medical history to their new foster or adoptive parents under legislation headed to the South Carolina Senate.
The House unanimously passed the measure on Thursday, which would also require the agency include assault or neglect in a kid’s past. State Rep. Joshua Putnam said it would allow foster parents to better care for the child.
“You’re bringing children into another home, another family with other children,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Then you need to know the information to get the best treatment for that child.”
The bill, if also approved by the Senate and Gov. Henry McMaster, would require DSS disclose any information it has to foster family, adoptive parents or extended family where a child is placed into custody that is “necessary to provide adequate care and supervision for the child” and to protect the health and safety of the child or the family. The same would also apply for any group home or child placement agency.
Appleseed Legal Justice Center director Sue Berkowitz said DSS caseworkers are often hesitant to provide information without a specific state law saying they can do so. She said that creates problems for families who take in a child abused in the past.
“How do you deal with the behavioral health and trauma of a child if you don’t have the full history?” she said.
The House also gave its approval last week to another bill that would ease the requirements for relatives to become licensed “kinship” foster parents. The measure would apply if DSS places a child with extended family either because the parents lose custody or die. Putnam said the worsening opioid overdose crisis has thrust many families unexpectedly into the role with little guidance from the state on their options for financial assistance or counseling.
Under the bill, DSS could also waive some of its normal licensing requirements for those families on a case-by-case basis. The agency could not waive background checks.
“Right now, we treat these kids as a piece of property. And that’s not right,” Putnam said. “Making these reforms, providing these resources and allowing these kids to feel like they’re part of a family is going to go a long way towards helping these kids heal.”
The measure will arrive in the Senate on Tuesday, where it will likely be referred to committee.