By Eric Egan
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A Lowcountry psychiatrist revealed Wednesday that there are child patients who are being put at risk.
The doctor, a child psychiatrist at Medical University Hospital, said child patients are being returned to homes where there's been documented abuse. The doctor did not want to be identified. At the psychiatrist's request to remain anonymous, ABC News 4 is not using the doctor's name.
"My day to day life is seeing these kids when they're younger, and I can't help them. I can't do my job," the psychiatrist said.
In a manner of speaking, the psychiatrist feels helpless. This doctor deals with children under the age 18 who have been physically and emotionally abused. Many of the young patients suffer from mental illness and behavioral disorders.
"The thing I get stuck on is that I say, 'I absolutely did everything that I can do, but that is not enough,'" said the doctor.
It's not enough because, according to this specialist, the Department of Social Services is falling short. The claim is that DSS, in many cases, has failed to investigate reports made by clinical experts.
It's that, or it's just difficult to reach someone at DSS.
ABC News 4 tried contacting the Williamsburg County office several Wednesday morning and got a busy signal. This psychiatrist has repeatedly had the same issue.
"I'm sending them back into homes that are violent; their life is trauma and the agencies that are supposed to be helping me are saying, 'Good luck,'" the child psychologist said.
We're also told that during the weekend in Dorchester County, the DSS offices are closed. What's more, according to the specialist, social services dropped the case of a child who had been physically abused because the patient moved to a different county.
Apparently the case was not transferred.
"I said, 'What happened?' and everyone shrugs. 'I don't know.' But I'm the one who's looking at that kid and saying, 'Yes, I cannot help you today. You have to go home with these people, I'm sorry.'"
Experts say when children are not helped, they act out violently. In the worst, but real case scenario, they've threatened suicide and murder. The doctors that treat them say, at the very least, these cases must be given a closer look.
"I'm just telling you what I heard, it's your job to investigate," said the psychiatrist. "Your job is to go into these different environments and look and see what the situation is."
ABC News 4 also reached out to DSS in Dorchester County and spoke with a representative from the department in Columbia.
Our news team is still waiting for a response from county offices to the doctor's claims in this story.
The state DSS office responded Wednesday night to a series of questions. In the DSS response, the agency's spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said it is DSS policy to investigate every allegation of neglect or abuse that is made by mandated officers, such as the psychiatrist in this story.
Matheus said there are a series of criteria used to determine the need to act, adding that a computer analysis helps make the determination.
On the issue of staffing at some county offices, Matheus said that some offices do experience a high case manager turnover, "but that is not an excuse."
"Every child and family that comes to the attention of the agency must receive services if it is determined that a child has been a victim of abuse and neglect," she said.
Matheus said cases should not be dropped if a child moves to a new county.
"Every effort should be made to locate the child in the new county and if the investigation or services are not complete the case should be transferred to the new county for completion of the investigation or treatment services," Matheus said.
She went on to say that Williamsburg County's DSS office has had ongoing problems with telephone lines in the building. The past two days, the phone lines have been completely down, Matheus said.
She said that DSS has been working with the county to correct the issues.