Two Upstate fathers promote bill to fight for SC kids - FOX Carolina 21

Two Upstate fathers promote bill to fight for SC kids

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Two dads are fighting to protect South Carolina's children. They are both from the Upstate and have fostered and adopted kids.

They said there isn't a system in place in the state to advocate for the rights of kids and to give them a voice.

"These children live in the nooks and crannies, we can't put their pictures out, we can't talk about them, but they are there and they are real," Realtor Dan Bracken said. 

Bracken explained that he never had the intent of becoming a foster parent.

"Once you see these kids, once you hear their stories, it's hard to walk away," Bracken said. 

Attorney Trey Ingram knew from the get-go he was meant to be one after a plane ride. 

"My wife and I came home from that trip and basically knew that we wanted to do more, we wanted to benefit children," Ingram said. 

Regardless of how they came to this fork in the road, these two Upstate dads are now taking the same path to try and improve what they see as a flawed system. 

"On a daily basis, DSS does good work. We see families heal, and children go home and children find stability, but like any system, it's prone to error. Right now, when it goes off the rails and it's not working well, who do you call?" Bracken asked. 

The fathers said there's no one to pick up that call. They feel there's no "Checks and Balances" in place when it comes to DSS, foster care or juvenile detention cases. 

"Right now, there's no one to contact if you have experienced a difficulty within the system. There's really no independent group who you can contact," Ingram said. 
    
With a child's life potentially at stake, they feel it's crucial to have some fresh, focused eyes dedicated to some of our state's most vulnerable. Between the two of them, they said they get dozens of phone calls from foster parents a week.

"These kids are sitting in your classroom, they're sitting in the pew next to them at church, they're in the restaurant when you go out to eat, these kids will be adults when your children are adults, so this affects everybody," said one of the men. "So what is the right thing to do. What is just? and if we're going to take children and they removed from their home then we have burden as a state to make sure that we make their lives better in the end."

Through a senate bill, they aim to restructure the current process, creating "The Department of Children's Advocacy." The agency would consolidate several welfare organizations into the office of the child advocate, serving as a watchdog for children involved in state agencies. 

"Creating an independent ombudsman to look into how our state agency is treating our children, I think is a win for everyone," Ingram said. 

"If this is the only bill that we're around that gets passed, I can be a happy man, because this bill has the potential to change the entire system," Bracken said. 

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