More than 17,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in South Carolina in 2017. And there’s a push right now to change that.
South Carolina lawmakers have been working all session to protect the most vulnerable citizens, children. They’re in the works of passing two bills into law aimed at preventing child abuse and increasing the review into child deaths.
“There’s nothing more serious than a child under the age of 18 and there’s suspicion of what happened to that child,” said Senator Katrina Shealy.
26 children died from abuse in South Carolina in 2016 and lawmakers want to make sure all child deaths are looked at extra carefully. They’re proposing to create a Child Fatality Review Team made up of the coroner, a law enforcement officer, a pediatrician, and a representative from the Department of Social Services.
Senator Shealy explained, “If we can find out that children are being abused and that they need to be taken out of the home sooner…any extra tool is always a good thing.”
But lawmakers want to also make sure child abuse is being reported. They’re trying to expand who’s required to report child abuse to include non-licensed counselors and firefighters (considered a safe haven). There’s also a push to eliminate the middle man in the review process.
“There’s a natural pressure to not have scandals so if you let someone higher up you report to and do an internal investigation you really run the risk that the politics of that business will get in the way of taking a true look at what happened,” said Representative Bruce Bannister, the author of the bill.
The mandated reporter bill is just waiting for Governor Henry McMaster’s signature.