DHR child safety procedures examined after SC slayings

The deaths of five children from South Carolina have social services nationwide reviewing procedure. (Source: WIS)
The deaths of five children from South Carolina have social services nationwide reviewing procedure. (Source: WIS)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The way authorities handled the case involving a man accused in the murder of his five children is raising questions about policies. According to documents released by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, there were three visits to the home of Tim Jones Jr. over three years.

People want to know: Could something else have been done to protect these children? We took a closer look at Alabama's child safety laws.

We spoke with the Madison County Department of Human Resources Director and she said it varies from month to month.

This week, for example, there have already been at least a half dozen children taken from their parents into DHR custody.

On average in Madison County, DHR investigates about 250 calls a month related to possible kids in danger.

Of those calls, social workers remove between 5-10 kids from their parent's home.

Director Tonita Phipps said she is proud of Alabama's laws and believes they do a good job at protecting children.

Unlike many other states, Alabama social workers are able to remove children if they believe the child is in immediate danger. Other states require a court order first.

Phipps said while they do take a person's criminal past and past complaints into consideration, there is no "three strikes-you're out" policy.

"We have to asses each call based on the specifics of that call," Phipps explained. "Because, unfortunately, we do get people who call and the information may not be true. So we have to give the family the benefit of the doubt."

Phipps said if the home is deplorable or there are obvious signs of abuse, they are able to act immediately. With regard to the case in South Carolina, she said the social worker involved should not be blamed, though the case and its overall handling should be reviewed by officials.

"I feel for the mother who has to be questioning herself, asking she could have done. I feel for those social workers who certainly have to be questioning themselves asking what they could have done differently, and for those poor children who lost their lives," Phipps said.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.