South Carolina

Richland County DSS leader leaving job; search on for successor

The Department of Social Services director for Richland County is leaving the job amid questions about two children’s deaths.

Elizabeth Stroup, director of the Richland County office of the troubled Department of Social Services, will be leaving the post she has held for just over a year, DSS confirmed this week. DSS says the foster care job is closer to Stroup’s home.

Stroup took over the office May 5, 2013, and stepped into the middle of a firestorm of criticism over whether her office has been staffed at levels needed to handle the number of child protective service referrals in the county.

Three months after Stroup took the reins in Richland County, 4-year-old Robert Guinyard Jr. died at the hands of his parents. In May, Courtney Thompson, 25, and Robert “Antonio” Guinyard Sr., 29, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

During the trial, DSS came under intense scrutiny as family members, friends and doctors told of begging the agency to intervene in Robert’s case, but to no avail.

Robert’s death was just one of many that became the focus of a state Senate panel investigation into DSS management under Lillian Koller who was appointed to the state post by Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011.

The panel heard from child advocates, parents, coroners and former Social Services employees who criticized the agency for workers’ heavy caseloads, a lack of transparency in providing information in child death investigations, and for missing abuse in cases of children who later died.

Koller resigned June 2.

In an email, DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said Stroup is returning to York County for a position with the DSS Intensive Foster Care and Clinical Services program. She will remain on the job in Richland County until her successor is chosen.

Contributing: Staff writer Rachael Myers Lowe, The Associated Press