South Carolina Definitions Parental Fitness

Definitions Relating to Parenting and Fitness as a Parent or Guardian

Title 63 > CHAPTER 7 § 63-7-20

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Abandonment of a child:

Affirmative determination:

Age or developmentally appropriate:

Caregiver:

Child:

Child abuse or neglect or harm:

Child protective investigation:

Child protective services:

Court:

Deadly weapon:

Department:

Emergency protective custody:

Firearm:

Great bodily injury:

Guardianship of a child:

Household member:

Indicated report:

Institutional child abuse and neglect:

Legal custody:

Mental injury:

Moderate bodily injury:

Party in interest:

Person responsible for a child’s welfare:

Physical custody:

Physical injury:

Preponderance of evidence:

Prior conviction of domestic violence:

Private parts:

Probable cause:

Protection order:

Protective services unit:

Reasonable and prudent parent standard:

Subject of the report:

Suspected report:

Unfounded report:

Abandonment of a child:

  • Means a parent or guardian willfully deserts a child, or
  • Willfully surrenders physical possession of a child without making adequate arrangements for the child’s needs or the continuing care of the child.

Affirmative determination:

A finding by a court or Department of Social Services (DSS) based upon a preponderance of evidence, that the child was abused or neglected by the person who is alleged or determined to have abused or neglected the child and who is mentioned by name in a report or finding.

Age or developmentally appropriate:

Generally, means activities or items that are generally accepted as suitable for children of the same chronological age or level of maturity or that are determined to be developmentally appropriate for a child, based on the development of cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral capacities that are typical for an age or age group;

In reference to a specific child, it means activities or items that are suitable for the child based on the developmental stages attained by the child with respect to the cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral capacities of the child; that can include, but not be limited to:

  • Sports
  • Field trips
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Social activities
  • After school programs or functions
  • Vacations with caregiver lasting up to two weeks
  • Overnight activities away from caregiver lasting up to one week
  • Employment opportunities; and
  • In-state or out-of-state travel, excluding overseas travel
  • Activities that do not conflict with any pending matters before the court, an existing court order, or the child’s scheduled appointments for evaluations or treatment.

Caregiver:

A foster parent, kinship foster parent, or employee of a group home who is designated to make decisions regarding age or developmentally appropriate activities or experiences on behalf of a child in the custody of the department.

Child:

A person under the age of eighteen.

Child abuse or neglect or harm:

Occurs when the parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare:

  • Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or mental injury or engages in acts or omissions which present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child, including injuries sustained as a result of excessive corporal punishment, but excluding corporal punishment or physical discipline which:
    • Is administered by a parent or person in loco parentis
    • Is perpetrated for the sole purpose of restraining or correcting the child
    • Is reasonable in manner and moderate in degree
    • Has not brought about permanent or lasting damage to the child; and
    • Is not reckless or grossly negligent behavior by the parent
  • Commits or allows to be committed against the child a sexual offense as defined by the laws of this State or engages in acts or omissions that present a substantial risk that a sexual offense as defined in the laws of this State would be committed against the child;
  • Fails to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or education as required under Article 1 of Chapter 65 of Title 59, supervision appropriate to the child’s age and development, or health care though financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so and the failure to do so has caused or presents a substantial risk of causing physical or mental injury. However, a child’s absences from school may not be considered abuse or neglect unless the school has made efforts to bring about the child’s attendance, and those efforts were unsuccessful because of the parents’ refusal to cooperate. For the purpose of this chapter “adequate health care” includes any medical or nonmedical remedial health care permitted or authorized under state law;
  • Abandons the child;
  • Encourages, condones, or approves the commission of delinquent acts by the child including, but not limited to, sexual trafficking or exploitation, and the commission of the acts are shown to be the result of the encouragement, condonation, or approval; or

Child protective investigation:

An inquiry conducted by the department in response to a report of child abuse or neglect made pursuant to this chapter.

Child Protective Services (CPS):

Assistance provided by the department as a result of indicated reports or affirmative determinations of child abuse or neglect, including assistance ordered by the family court or consented to by the family. The objectives of child protective services are to:

  1. Protect the child’s safety and welfare; and
  2. Maintain the child within the family unless the safety of the child requires placement outside the home.

Court:

The family court.

Department:

Department of Social Services.

Emergency protective custody:

The right to physical custody of a child, for a temporary period of no more than twenty-four hours, to protect the child from imminent danger.

Emergency protective custody may be taken only by a law enforcement officer.

Guardianship of a child:

A person who has the duty and authority vested in a person by the family court to make certain decisions regarding a child.

Indicated report:

Means a report of child abuse or neglect supported by facts which warrant a finding by a preponderance of evidence that abuse or neglect is more likely than not to have occurred.

Institutional child abuse and neglect:

Means situations of known or suspected child abuse or neglect where the person responsible for the child’s welfare is the employee of a public or private residential home, institution, or agency.

Legal custody:

Means the right to the physical custody, care, and control of a child; the right to determine where the child shall live; the right and duty to provide protection, food, clothing, shelter, ordinary medical care, education, supervision, and discipline for a child and in an emergency to authorize surgery or other extraordinary care. The court may in its order place other rights and duties with the legal custodian. Unless otherwise provided by court order, the parent or guardian retains the right to make decisions of substantial legal significance affecting the child, including consent to a marriage, enlistment in the armed forces, and major nonemergency medical and surgical treatment, the obligation to provide financial support or other funds for the care of the child, and other residual rights or obligations as may be provided by order of the court.

Mental injury:

M an injury to the intellectual, emotional, or psychological capacity or functioning of a child as evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment of the child’s ability to function when the existence of that impairment is supported by the opinion of a mental health professional or medical professional.

Party in interest:

Includes the child, the child’s attorney and guardian ad litem, the natural parent, an individual with physical or legal custody of the child, the foster parent, and the local foster care review board.

Person responsible for a child’s welfare:

Includes the child’s parent, guardian, foster parent, an operator, employee, or caregiver, as defined by Section 63-13-20, of a public or private residential home, institution, agency, or childcare facility or an adult who has assumed the role or responsibility of a parent or guardian for the child, but who does not necessarily have legal custody of the child. A person whose only role is as a caregiver and whose contact is only incidental with a child, such as a babysitter or a person who has only incidental contact but may not be a caretaker, has not assumed the role or responsibility of a parent or guardian. An investigation pursuant to Section 63-7-920 must be initiated when the information contained in a report otherwise sufficient under this section does not establish whether the person has assumed the role or responsibility of a parent or guardian for the child.

Physical custody:

The lawful, actual possession and control of a child.

Physical injury:

Death, or permanent or temporary disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or function.

Preponderance of evidence:

Means evidence which, when fairly considered, is more convincing as to its truth than the evidence in opposition.

Probable cause:

Means facts and circumstances based upon accurate and reliable information, including hearsay, that would justify a reasonable person to believe that a child subject to a report under this chapter is abused or neglected.

Protective services unit:

Means the unit established within the Department of Social Services which has prime responsibility for state efforts to strengthen and improve the prevention, identification, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

Reasonable and prudent parent standard:

The standard of care characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interest of a child while at the same time encouraging the growth and development of the child, that a caregiver shall use when determining whether to allow a child in foster care to participate in age or developmentally appropriate activities.

Subject of the report:

A person alleged or determined to have abused or neglected the child, who is mentioned by name in a report or finding.

Suspected report:

All initial reports of child abuse or neglect received pursuant to this chapter.

Unfounded report:

Means a report made pursuant to this chapter for which there is not a preponderance of evidence to believe that the child is abused or neglected. For the purposes of this chapter, it is presumed that all reports are unfounded unless the department determines otherwise.

Deadly weapon:

Any pistol, dirk, slingshot, metal knuckles, razor, or other instrument which can be used to inflict deadly force.

Great bodily injury:

Bodily injury that causes a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.

Household member:

  • Spouse
  • Former Spouse
  • Persons who have a child in common
  • A male and female who are cohabiting or formerly cohabitated

The current legal definition does not include same-sex couples. In Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry. The same argument could be made that a same-sex couple has a right to protection from domestic violence. As the result of Obergefell v. Hodges, all fifty states are required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as marriages of opposite-sex couples and they are to be treated the same as far as their rights and responsibilities. Given this change, interpreting the fourth bullet point as a couple who are or formerly cohabitated regardless of their genders seems appropriate. Same-sex couples can have a child in common via a variety of methods.

Moderate bodily injury:

Physical injury that involves prolonged loss of consciousness or that causes temporary or moderate disfigurement or temporary loss of the function of a bodily member or organ or injury that requires medical treatment when the treatment requires the use of regional or general anesthesia or injury that results in a fracture or dislocation. Moderate bodily injury does not include one-time treatment and subsequent observation of scratches, cuts, abrasions, bruises, burns, splinters, or any other minor injuries that do not ordinarily require extensive medical care.

Prior conviction of domestic violence:

Conviction of any crime, in any state, containing among its elements those enumerated in, or substantially similar to those enumerated in, Section 16-25-20(A) that is committed against a household member within the ten years prior to the incident date of the current offense.

Protection order:

Any order of protection, restraining order, condition of bond, or any other similar order issued in this State or another state or foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of protecting a household member.

Firearm:

A pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, submachine gun, or an assault rifle which is designed to fire or is capable of firing fixed cartridge ammunition or from which a shot or projectile is discharged by an explosive but does not include an antique firearm as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(16).

Private parts:

The genital area, or buttocks, of a male or female, or the breasts of a female.

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