S.C. legislation could reward foster care by relatives

Orphans or kids whose parents can’t take care of them can stay with other family members or close friends.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Orphans or kids whose parents can’t take care of them can stay with other family members or close friends.

It’s called “kinship care.” Nearly 4,000 kids and teens are currently in South Carolina’s foster system, and about a quarter of them are with kinship caregivers.

Those relatives don’t necessarily get the same help as foster parents – but new legislation could change that.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services says the program it’s proposing in this bill is designed to support permanent placements of kids and teens with their kinship caregivers – and get them out of the foster system forever.

South Carolina is one of just 10 states that hasn’t implemented this program – though it’s been around for about a decade.

“It’s really important when these kids have trauma for them to be able to begin that healing process, and that’s best done with family and friends that they know,” said Sue Williams of the CEO of the Children’s Trust of South Carolina.

The bill would provide kinship caregivers with more legal authority to care for children – which they say would make processes like obtaining birth certificates easier.

The legislation would also establish a Kin GAP program – allowing kinship caregivers to receive financial assistance similar to what foster families get from the government.

A legislative estimate says the federal government can give South Carolina about half a million dollars next year for this, while the state would also have to put in about $1.7 million of its own money.

One South Carolina kinship caregiver says this legislation would especially help grandparents and older relatives – living on fixed incomes.

“They don’t want to let the child go into foster care because it’s a family member and so on, and they want to take care of the child. If they do that, today, they may not have any financial support, and they’re already struggling,” said Daryl McCulley, Kershaw County kinship caregiver.

This bill will next be considered in the Senate Family and Veterans’ Services Committee next Wednesday – after advancing out of a subcommittee this week.