COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – A statewide task force is taking a look at what changes need to be made to help at-risk youth in South Carolina.
The Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council met Friday morning. The council advises the governor and lawmakers on policies that impact juvenile justice.
The council said they want to prevent children from slipping through the cracks in South Carolina.
During the meeting, SC Department of Children’s Advocacy Director Amanda Whittle brought up the lack of resources for severely mentally ill children. Director Whittle said these children make up a small part of the population at Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities.
She said the children should be at a Department of Mental Health facility rather than DJJ. Whittle added there’s a lack of placements for those children in private settings as well in the state.
“The concern is we do not have a ‘No Eject, No Reject’ facility here in South Carolina for children suffering from severe mental illness who are in DJJ facilities,” she said.
That’s why she’s recommending a state-run pediatric psychiatric residential treatment facility.
“Our plea is that the council — and other agencies — create a system to take away these kids from the Department of Juvenile Justice,” said JAy Elliott, interim chair of the council.
Another issue the council is studying is how South Carolina is handling young repeat status offenders. These are children who are truant or run away from home repeatedly.
Officials said some of those repeat status offenders are eventually housed in DJJ facilities. The council said they believe those children should not be locked up.
“We need to get beyond the behaviors — that present those kids to us,” Elliot said. “Figure out what kind of services we can provide those kids to address their actual needs.”