Some children removed from their homes by South Carolina’s Department of Social Services were placed in hotels because the state agency said there were not enough appropriate foster homes.
“Some children are doubled up in foster homes, some where we can’t find placements, go into our group care provider,” said Upstate DSS Team Leader Elaine Bailey.
DSS statistics show the number one reason children were removed from their family home was “neglect”. The agency said the primary concern was the safety of the child.
7 On Your Side reviewed public documents including DSS receipts which show several hotels were used over a period of several months to house foster children when other placement was not available.
The receipts include more than $5,500 for housing foster children at the Embassy Suites in Columbia from January 2015 until April. Other receipts include hotels in Newberry, Aiken and North Charleston.
“The use of hotels was during a critical period of time when placements were not available for children/youth in foster care,” said DSS Spokesperson Marilyn Matheus.
“The use of hotels for children in protective custody has stopped,” Matheus said.
The problem of finding safe homes for the state’s foster children continues.
The most recent state numbers show more than 6,700 children in the foster care system. Many of them bounce from home to home.
Bailey said the Upstate region had 1,300 children in foster care and fewer than 500 foster parents.
In January, a dozen of the state’s foster children, who claimed they were “institutionalized” by the shortage of foster homes, filed a class action lawsuit against DSS in Federal Court.
Bailey said the agency is focused on improving the experience of current foster families because she said “those families are our best recruiters.”.
The state is asking more families to get involved in foster care by contacting the Heartfelt Caring hotline at 1-888-828-3555.