Kathleen Hayes, 61, a former adoption services director at the agency, said she will examine the current process to see if any bureaucracy can be eliminated.
"We want to look at it from the child's standpoint," she said.
Mr. Sanford said it takes almost four years for a child to be adopted after being removed from an unsafe home and put in foster care.
"There are too many kids stuck in situations that are not ideal," he said.
Ms. Hayes is currently the chief of staff at the Department of Juvenile Justice. Her appointment Friday must be confirmed by the Senate.
She replaces Kim Aydlette, who resigned a few months after the agency was criticized by a state Legislative Audit Council report for failing to follow state law and its own policies to keep abused or neglected children safe.
One lawmaker hoped the governor would appoint interim Director Wendell Price.
"I'm sure Ms. Hayes will do a good job," state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said. "Given the problems at DSS, I thought the agency needed someone more seasoned at doing more with less since the General Assembly insists on not funding that agency."
Ms. Cobb-Hunter said she thought Mr. Price "was in more of a position to get rid of the old thinking at DSS."
The governor said Ms. Hayes was more in tune with his goals.
"What stands out is her long-term commitment to helping people in need," Mr. Sanford said.
Ms. Aydlette made $138,000 as director of the agency that employs about 3,000 people to serve about 800,000 clients. Mr. Sanford said the agency's budget, including state and federal funds, is about $1 billion.
In addition to adoption services and the foster care program, the agency administers child and adult protective services and food stamp and other financial services for welfare recipients.
The agency also enforces court orders for child support and regulates and licenses day cares.
OCCUPATION: Director, South Carolina Social Services Department (pending Senate confirmation)
EXPERIENCE: Chief of staff, South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department, 2003-present; coordinator, Nexuskids, 2000-03; director, South Carolina Families for Kids, 1995-2000; director, adoption services at DSS, 1985-95
EDUCATION: Ph.D. in psychology, University of New Mexico, 1972; bachelor's degree in psychology, University of New Mexico, 1967
FAMILY: Husband, Jules Riley, married for 22 years