There can be a lot of misconceptions about foster care, which can come from a lot of different places. We want to do our best to educate you about what foster care really is and help you make an informed decision if you are considering getting involved. Here are some of the basics that will hopefully answer some of your questions. In the interest of your time, these are condensed answers to some common questions. If you would like more information about any of these, we would love to expound!
Who is in foster care?
Children can enter foster care from the moment they’re born all the way through 18 years old. The average age of a child in foster care is around 8 (via AFCARS). Children in foster care come from all racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but the one thing that they all have in common is trauma. Regardless of the situation that caused them to come in to care, the fact that they were removed from their biological family is an incredibly traumatic situation for any child.
What is foster care?
Foster care is a temporary living situation for children who are unable to live with their biological families. The goal of foster care is family reunification. Foster care is often a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The issues that led to removal are often issues that have been present for a while and may continue to be a struggle even if the children are able to return to their families. Ideally, the time children spend in foster care will give biological parents a chance to address personal and/or relationship issues so that their children can return to a stronger and healthier family environment.
When do children enter the foster care system?
There are a couple of different ways that a child can enter the foster care system. Law enforcement officials can file an emergency protective custody (EPC) order if they believe a child is in imminent danger, which will place a child into DSS custody pending an investigation. The other way starts with a report to DSS from a concerned person. A teacher, coach, or another concerned adult can file a report through their local DSS office or law enforcement. An investigation will be launched to determine the validity of the report and if further action is needed. If needed, resources can be offered to the family or recommendations can be made to improve situations, or it could be determined that the child(ren) need to be removed. In either case, relatives are the first choice for out of home placement. Kinship care is a great way for kids to keep some sort of continuity in their lives.
Where are the children from?
Children in foster care come from all different family backgrounds, neighborhoods, and schools. Children enter foster care from every county and every community in South Carolina. At last check, there are almost 4,200 children in foster care in South Carolina. If you are interested in how many children are in foster care in your county, click here. Due to a shortage of foster homes in almost every county, children are often placed far from their homes and apart from siblings.
Why do children enter foster care?
There are many different reasons why children enter the foster care system, but none of them are the child’s fault. This is a really common and harmful mistaken belief that many people have. Children enter foster care because their living situation is not safe, stable, or nurturing. This is most often due to some sort of abuse or neglect, but can also be due to other circumstances like the death of a parent/caretaker or parents getting arrested. Placement with a foster family is often the last resort for DSS. The first choice if a child is unable to remain with his/her family is kinship care. Relatives or close friends are sought out to care for the child during the investigation or while parents are working on a treatment plan. If there are no available or suitable family members, then a child is placed in to foster care.
How can I help?
There are a lot of ways to get involved in foster care, and only a couple of them involve bringing children into your home! Obviously, becoming licensed as a foster parent is a great way to help children who enter the foster care system. Almost every county in South Carolina has a shortage of foster parents. Along with being able to help the children that come into your home, having more foster homes in a community means that siblings can be placed closer to each other if a home isn’t able to take all of them. This can also help caseworkers who won’t have to spend as much of their time traveling to visit children that had to be placed out of the county. This gives them more time and energy to help the child and family. Respite care is another way to open your home to help children in foster care. You can learn more about respite care here. Other ways to bless children and families include supporting foster and kinship families through prayer, relationships, and whatever practical needs may arise.
At Thornwell we think education and training are very important. We offer training opportunities above and beyond what is required by DSS. We also have 24/7 support from family specialists trained in multiple trauma informed, evidence based resources. We believe that a successful foster parent is one who understands how trauma affects the children in their care and knows how to care for them in ways that are fair, effective, and show concern and compassion for everything that the child has been through and continues to go through. If you care about providing a safe, understanding, and healing environment for a child in foster care, then getting licensed with Thornwell is the best choice you can make.