COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- In 2018 there were more than 19,000 victims of child abuse in South Carolina. Numbers that place the state in the top 20 nationally. South Carolina lawmakers are trying to decrease those numbers, but in the process have found the need for stronger response to these types of cases.
South Carolina is one of a few states that does not have a universal protocol for responding to child abuse cases. Now state lawmakers are hoping to create a special committee that would create and set those guidelines.
“It’s unfortunate because I love this state,” said Representative Beth Bernstein. Rep. Bernstein is one of several cosponsors of a bill in the House to create a child abuse advisory board.
South Carolina ranked 11th in the nation in 2018 for the number of child abuse victims; a heartbreaking statistic for many lawmakers.
Bernstein continued, “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we are not the worst state for domestic violence, the worst state for heart disease, and most importantly for abuse and neglect cases.”
Both representatives and senators have filed the “South Carolina Child Abuse Response Protocol Act.”
The act establishes a multidisciplinary committee to investigate and prosecute child abuse cases while creating universal protocol for all agencies to use in those investigations.
Senator Katrina Shealy of Lexington County is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “We want everybody doing the same thing and following the same rules because sometimes you get one county is doing it this way and one county doing it this way.”
The proposal also allows the state to expand accreditation criteria for children’s advocacy centers. The goal is to open the way for more advocacy centers and more advocates in the state to serve South Carolina’s most vulnerable population.
“So we can have more CACs in the state to end more of the child abuse cases, so it’s making it broader for South Carolina and providing more protection for our children,” added Shealy.
The Child Abuse Response Protocol Advisory Board would consist of 10 members including law enforcement from both the state and county levels, as well as, the Department of Social Services.
Other members on that advisory board would be a representative from the solicitor’s office, a member from a school district and a medical professional.