Irish Travelers say D.S.S. not giving them a chance to dispute evidence being used against them

Irish Traveler families say they are outraged with the state for not giving them a chance to contest the evidence being used against them.

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WJBF) – WJBF NewsChannel 6 is learning about new developments in the removal of 5 Murphy Village minors.

Families say they are outraged with the state for not giving them a chance to contest the evidence being used against them.

Pictures of little girls standing beside little boys, at their First Communion, is an example of the type of evidence Travelers say South Carolina Department of Social Services is using to claim their children are married.

“We know a lot of people are quick to judge, but they don’t know the real story.” Mary Ohara, an Irish Traveler, said.

The entire Murphy Village community continues to grieve the absence of 5 girls. The children were taken by the S.C.D.S.S. and were separated into different fosters homes.

The father of one of those girls tells WJBF NewsChannel 6 the state refused to allow his daughter to be put in the custody of another family member.

In many cases S.C.D.S.S. places the child in the care of a relative or a foster.

However, the father says the state deemed the whole community was a risk for the child’s well-being. A claim the Irish Travelers say is false.

“We never let our children go. Until death our children is here with us,” Ohara said. “We tend to them and it’s always going to be that way and we are not giving up now. Are we giving up? No!”

A spokesperson for S.C.D.S.S. says they only investigate reports of neglect or child abuse, if the information provided to them falls under South Carolina’s definition of physical, sexual, or psychological mistreatment.

If S.C.D.S.S. finds a child is not safe at home, they can only take the child in 2 ways.

  • Law enforcement can take the child into emergency protective custody
  • Through an Ex Parte obtain by a family court

When the girls were taken, their families appeared in court to contest the evidence presented by S.C.D.S.S. but in this case the Travelers say the state already had their mind made up.

“They are not listening to our story. Whenever they go into the courtrooms it seems like it’s already all decided,” she said. “So listen to our story. Listen to our explanations of what’s going on because it’s not like it looks.”

Any investigation by S.C.D.S.S. must be completed within 45 days unless the state is granted an extension of up to 60 days.

The families WJBF NewsChannel 6 spoke with say they have to appear in court next week. If they don’t get their girls back, they are going to march through North Augusta calling on South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to help them.

On Friday, WJBF NewsChannel 6 reach out to Governor Haley for comment, she sent this:

“Yes, we have received a few calls on this issue. The governor has been briefed fully on the situation by Director Alford and she has every confidence that D.S.S. has acted both lawfully and in the best interests of the children involved.”

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story. 

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