Elizabeth G. Patterson
When Elizabeth G. Patterson was appointed to be the State Director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services in 1998, she brought with her a vision for children, ideas for ways to improve the lives of our state's most vulnerable citizens, and a reputation as a child advocate. As a professor of law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, her vision already had led to the creation of the Children's Law Office, a resource center for South Carolina professionals who are involved in child maltreatment cases. Ms. Patterson has been directly and personally involved in drafting child welfare reform legislation, legislation adopted in large part because Ms. Patterson devoted considerable time to testifying before legislative committees and personally lobbying members of the South Carolina General Assembly. In her four years of service to the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Ms. Patterson has had a lasting impact: benefiting both the children of South Carolina, all the Department's workers, and particularly those who are directly involved with the protection of abused and neglected children. Her background in the area of Children's Law and knowledge of how that system can and does prevent effectively helping those children caught in the system gave her a unique insight as to the procedures that could be implemented to lessen the load of the courts. When Ms. Patterson became State Director, her first sweeping move was to acknowledge those workers on the front line in Child Protective Services by giving them an increase in salary, improving morale significantly through this demonstration of appreciation. She then instituted a plan of action that trains all department of Social Service workers - those in areas other than child protection - to possess the skills needed to assess safety and risk factors affecting children in the families they serve. This program emerges as part of Ms. Patterson's broader perspective of helping families to obtain the services they need with the fewest obstacles. Whether at the helm of the Department of Social Services or at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Ms. Patterson persists in her advocacy on behalf of the children of South Carolina.