South Carolina Seeks to Privatize its Child Welfare Services

Starting in April 1996, the State of South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, sought to pilot a project in which a private contractor would develop and manage organized systems of care for child protection through in-home intervention, foster care and adoption under a comprehensive blended rate payment system.

When the initiative started, the state had already integrated their public funding streams; now it sought to enhance the quality of child welfare services for children and families in South Carolina and to improve operational efficiency of the child welfare system through privatization.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Mental Health Services Program for Youth Replication.

Key Results

A number of obstacles were encountered, including a new state administration that was less supportive of the project, which forced the Department of Health and Human Services to put the project on hold several times. By November 1998, many of these obstacles had been eliminated and the project was ready to be resumed.

The state health and human services department requested and received an extension of the grant until September 30, 1999. The scope of the project remained unchanged.

The Department of Social Services joined with South Carolina's mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, disability and special needs agencies, provider groups, and client advocates to identify outcomes for children in residential treatment programs.

  • At the time of this report, the department was in the process of contracting with the University of South Carolina, School of Neuropsychiatry, to assist in identifying technical assistance and coordinating resources for the project.
  • During an extension period, a workgroup of agency representatives, established by the state health and human services agencies, was charged with developing an outcomes-based reimbursement system for children's mental health services.