Legislator Spotlight - Senator Katrina Shealy

Senator Katrina Shealy,
(R) District 23

Chairman, Senate General Committee

Additional Committees:
Banking and Insurance
Corrections and Penology
General, Chairman
Judiciary
Medical Affairs

About Senator Shealy:
State Senator Katrina Shealy was elected to the South Carolina Senate in November 2012. A lifelong resident of Lexington County, Senator Shealy is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Looking to improve child welfare in South Carolina, Senator Shealy served on the Board of Directors for the Lexington County Department of Social Services from 2001-2003. She has led efforts to reform South Carolina’s Department of Social Services to protect our most vulnerable children; and, for her efforts, Shealy was recognized as Legislator of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers in 2015. Committed to our youth, Senator Shealy is an active member of the Advisory Board of the South Carolina Friends of Juvenile Justice and has served on the Board of Directors of the Lexington County Department of Social Services. Senator Shealy formed Katrina’s Kids, a 501(c)3 foundation for foster children and children in group homes, to give these children opportunities to be in summer camps, academic, sports, and music programs.

She has fought for victims of domestic abuse by sharing her sister’s experience with domestic violence. Through her hard work, she was able to get legislation passed enforcing stronger penalties for criminal domestic violence in South Carolina. She was recognized as the 2015 Legislator of the Year by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse. Senator Shealy and her husband have raised their family of three daughters and five grandsons.

What do you see as the biggest need for South Carolina kids?
Department of Social Services (DSS) and the child welfare system is never going to be easy when you are dealing with families in crisis. There is a need for people to step up and be foster parents and that’s tough because there is an emotional attachment. We also need caseworkers. No matter how good the system is, it’s still a tough job – you’re dealing with abuse, trauma and emotion. We have good, dedicated people. But they need to feel appreciated. Just patting someone on the back and telling them they are doing a good job can make them feel better.

We’ve seen an increase in opioid addiction and its affect on South Carolina families including the removal of children, do you see this as a priority?
Drugs are the downfall of the American family. Families want to be reunited. We can’t take kids out of a family without giving the parents a chance to rehabilitate.

What have you learned during your time in the Senate?
I came in with the grand idea that I was going to save the world. But I came over here and God puts things on your heart. He put on my heart to help abused kids, to help families and help abused women. When I came to the Senate there were 46 men. They care about these issues but they see things differently. Sometimes these issues get overlooked. Women will talk about these issues and then I’ve seen the male senators want to help. Senator Young and Senator Lourie and I went to Senator O’Dell and asked him for an oversight committee (on DSS). There were many nights I went home and did not sleep because kids were being sent back into unsafe homes. We failed those kids. Case workers were being overworked with 100+ cases on their caseload. If it’s a kid, you have it fix it now. You can’t wait.

Tell us about Katrina’s Kids.
I saw a need from the DSS Oversight Committee that changed the way I thought about things. We knew there were things kids in foster care wanted to do like play baseball, go to summer camp, take gymnastics. But foster families or group homes can’t always afford to send kids to go do those things. We created Katrina’s Kids, a nonprofit, that would raise money and give scholarships to kids in foster care. We’ve given out backpacks for back to school, helped with program activities and given out scholarships for kids to attend the Leadership Institute at Columbia College. We even help kids that are transitioning or aging out of foster care.

What is something that many people may not know about you or would be surprised to learn?
I am determined. I never sleep. I sing and play trombone and play piano. I’m the best bedtime storyteller ever. I have donkeys and one of them (Roads) has her own Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013201064800 

What do you see as your legacy?
To make my grandchildren proud.