Oversight Panel Grills SC DSS Director - WSPA.com

Oversight Panel Grills SC DSS Director

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SC Dept. of Social Services Director Lillian Koller testifies before the Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee. SC Dept. of Social Services Director Lillian Koller testifies before the Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee.
The panel grilled South Carolina Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller for more than three hours Wednesday. The panel grilled South Carolina Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller for more than three hours Wednesday.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -

State senators grilled South Carolina Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller for more than three hours Wednesday.

The Senate DSS Oversight Subcommittee is investigating claims children died because the agency missed red flags.

"I think kids are more vulnerable today than they have been in years past and that concerns me," said Sen. Joel Lourie, a Democrat from Richland.

Lourie said DSS employees across the state have reached out to him, complaining of a culture of intimidation within the agency.

“Either we've got a lot of people around the state who are working very hard and just missing the boat, or there is a serious problem of morale, and trust, and confidence, and leadership at the agency," said Lourie.

Koller said she's not stepping down.

“If I thought that my resignation would save the life of even one child, the governor would have my resignation,” said Koller.

“Somebody has got to take responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, I think it was my child's death that finally kind of pushed the Senate over the edge to grill her," said Kathryn Martin.

Greenville County deputies said Martin's 3-month-old infant Kellie Rynn suffocated in her bedding in Pamela Wood's home daycare, which DSS had previously written up for violations.

Wood was not charged in Kellie Rynn's death.

She was charged with child neglect, violation of daycare licensing and obstructing justice after deputies said she was looking after 23 children when she was only registered to care for six.

Now Martin is pushing for new state legislation.

“She would have been shut down. This would never have happened to us," said Martin.

A bill introduced last month in the state Senate is moving forward in the Judicial Committee. If DSS finds a registered family childcare home is unsafe, it would have two options: DSS could withdraw that facility's registration or make it get licensed as a group childcare home with regular DSS inspections.

Last week, an amendment to an existing House bill that would have accomplished the same thing was put on hold until next year.

In the meantime, Martin has a message for legislators.

“Kellie Rynn didn't have a lot of time here, but I have a lot of time here. And I will protect my child as long as I’m here. You're going to get really tired of seeing me,” said Martin.

It's easier to register with DSS as a family childcare home provider than you might think. You can look after up to six children if you register by mail every year and pass a background check. DSS can only inspect registered facilities if there's a complaint.

Fewer than 20 home childcare providers in South Carolina are licensed with the state. Licensed providers get regular DSS inspections.

Related:
2 Deaths at Daycares, One Fight for Tougher Laws
Baby Dies, Illegal Daycare Busted in Greenville Co.
DSS Does Not Inspect Most Home Daycares
DSS Shuts Down Home Daycare Facility in Taylors

Jenna Troum
Jenna is a general assignment reporter covering Greenville, Pickens and Laurens Counties.
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