Family in need of DSS help learns child was struck by car while in state care
James and Cristy Hollifield never imagined they’d be sitting at the Medical University of South Carolina on Monday. Last week, they were moving from Florida to North Carolina with their 4-year-old son William. It was a chance at a better life.
Just 105 miles from their destination, their car broke down and they had not a dollar to their names. Columbia police helped raise money for food and a hotel room. But, three days later, things didn’t get better. A Columbia police officer suggested the couple voluntarily surrender their son to the Department of Social Services.
“(We were told) if we did voluntary surrender, there wouldn’t be an investigation, we wouldn’t go to court, that once we got our transportation situation situated, that they would just give us our son back and we could go home,” Hollifield said.
Eighteen hours after surrendering their son, Hollifield said DSS called. Their son was hit by a car and sent to a Charleston hospital. The agency drove the couple to Charleston but wouldn't let them visit their son for more than a few minutes.
“You mean to tell me, that you’re going to call me up and tell me my son’s been hit, drive me two hours to my son’s hospital and tell me I can’t see him? Really?” Hollifield said.
Columbia police confirm the couple did not commit a crime. But the couple said they felt they were treated like criminals when they were prevented from seeing their son at the hospital.
“I just imagine what he’s going through, he’s only four,” Hollifield said. “He’s probably thinking his parents don’t even care.”
He said calls to DSS mostly went unanswered Monday. It’s left them with a lot of questions. DSS also declined to answer questions from ABC News 4, other than to say the incident is under investigation.
“They made the statement that he was safer in their custody than ours,” Hollifield said. “Well, we’ve had him for four years and he’s been to the hospital twice, they had him 18 hours and he’s in the hospital having surgery.”
Officials said the boy was staying with a foster family in St. George when the accident happened. The St. George police chief said the boy was playing in a parking lot with some other kids when he darted in front of the car. He suffered a broken leg. They said no one will be charged.
Hollifield says DSS told him he can have his son back once he finds reliable transportation. The family set up a GoFundMe account Tuesday to help raise money for a new vehicle.
On Tuesday, attorney David Aylor announced he was representing the Hollifields. He asked new Gov. Henry McMaster to step in.
“How many children are going to be injured or possibly die while in DSS custody?" Aylor wrote. "This situation and the actions taken by DSS are totally outrageous and have failed this child, the parents and the citizens of South Carolina. I implore Governor McMaster to immediately intervene on behalf of his cabinet agency, the Department of Social Services."
Aylor said the family is working on reliable transportation.
“Today, the child was released but DSS is not allowing the Hollifields to take their son onto North Carolina. DSS is now denying them any updates on additional medical treatment their son will require and will not share with them any future doctor appointments I’m asking Governor McMaster to allow these parents to take their child and care for him as they have done for the past four years. The Hollifields did everything asked of them and now they are denied access to their son and it’s just wrong."
DSS on Tuesday declined further comment.