Most people have heard the term “foster care.” Most people are aware of the very basics of what foster care is. However, there is still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding foster care. Today, we’re answering some common questions about foster care and debunking some myths.
WHO is in foster care?
Any minor under the age of 18 can enter foster care. According to childwelfare.gov, the median age of children entering foster care during FY 2018 was 6 years old. Foster children come from all sorts of backgrounds that aren’t limited or excluded by race, religion, or class. The one thing that ties all these children together is they have experienced types of trauma. While the exact situation that resulted in the removal of the child varies, the separation of a child from their family is scary for the child.
WHAT is foster care?
Foster care is a temporary living situation for a child that is unable to live with their biological family or primary caregiver. The number one goal of foster care is reuniting the child with their biological family or caregiver. By removing a child from a situation, it gives parents or caregivers a chance to address external or internal situations directly. The hope is that when the child or children are returned, they are coming back to a stronger and healthier family.
WHEN do children/teens enter the foster care system?
There are two primary ways that a child ends up in foster care. Law enforcement officials can file an emergency protective custody (EPC) order if they believe a child is in imminent danger, which places the child into DSS custody. Additionally, a teacher, coach, or other concerned adult can file a report to DSS or law enforcement. Both events result in an investigation which determines if the reports have any validity and if any further actin needs to be taken. Often, removing a child from the home is a last resort due to the situation being dangerous, improvements not being made, and/or resources not being utilized. If a child is removed from the home, DSS will often look for relatives or family friends to take the child. Kinship care is a great way for kids to stay within their community and maintain continuity in their lives.
WHERE are foster children from?
Foster children come from all different family backgrounds, neighborhoods, and schools. The South Carolina Department of Social Services reports that 4,005 children are currently in foster care and only 2,800 families are licensed to care for them. Due to this imbalance, sibling groups are separated, and children/teens are often place far away from “home.”
WHY do children enter foster care?
There are a lot of different reasons children enter foster care, but none of them have to do with the child. Children may enter foster care because their living situation is not safe, stable, or nurturing. Children aren’t always removed due to abuse or neglect. The death of a caregiver or the caregiver(s) getting arrested can also result in a foster care placement. As mentioned before, often DSS will seek out kinship care through the child or teen’s relatives or close friends. If no kinship care is available, the child will be placed with a fully trained and licensed foster family.
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.