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Foster Parents needed as Foster Care shortage sends children far from home

There is a renewed push for regular foster homes for 1,700 children in South Carolina, following the discovery of 11-month-old Harlee Lewis’ body in Chesterfield County. Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks urged more foster parents to help solve a shortage. “We’ve got to do better in protecting our children,” said Brooks during a press conference days after the baby girl was found near her home, in a diaper box. Brooks went on to explain Lewis had never been entered into the system but that South Carolina has a huge need for foster parents. After speaking with Lakeshia Bryant-Seabrook, a supervisor with the Department of Social Services for Region 3, it became clear Colleton County is in dire need of regular foster homes.

The numbers are staggering. According to Chrysti Shain, Public Information Officer for the Department of Social Services, there are currently seven licensed regular foster homes in Colleton County making the county 24 short. Our county alone has 41 children in foster care as of June 1, 2018. Folks, 41 children could field four baseball teams. The state of South Carolina is over 1,700 foster homes short for the number of children currently in foster care. The number one reason children are taken into custody is neglect or abuse. The number of children taken in has been increasing every month. Shain says some of the contributing factors for children being removed from their home are drug abuse, the parent having a medical condition and abandonment.

Once a child enters the system, social workers work hard to keep them close to home. It is important for social workers to try and keep the children in their same school. Out of the 41 children from Colleton County in foster care, only 8 of them are placed here. That is only 26% that did not have to leave their school, church and friends. Leaving their home is traumatic. Keeping them in their same school with their same teachers and friends could help soften the blow of being uprooted from their home. There is also parental visitation and court dates that children would need to attend. With the shortage of local foster homes, children are finding themselves at times more than an hour away from home. High school aged students suffer if they are transferred to a high school that is not on the same credit schedule as the one they have been attending, possibly pushing back their graduation date. All students are missing hours of instructional time when they are being transported back and forth for visitations and court date.

New foster parents are needed in our area to help change the narrative of what we are experiencing across our county and state. Bryant- Seabrook explained there is a huge need not only for foster homes but for foster homes that would take sibling groups. Siblings are their own support system. Some have credited their sibling for the only reason they feel they have survived. There is also a need for foster parents to take teenagers. The Department of Social Services first goal is to try for family reunification. According to Bryant- Seabrook, children in our county have a 50%-60% rate of being reunited with a biological parent, which is pretty high compared to other parts of our region. There are a few things one must do to qualify to become a foster parent. The applicant must be at least 21 years of age. They do not have to own their own home and they can be single. They do have to show an income. It does take a few months to receive the training required to become a foster parent. One thing is clear, children thrive when they are in a family environment. The impact for opening your home to a foster child is minimal. Foster children have medicaid. Foster parents will receive a stipend which should cover the child’s room and board. If daycare is needed, the state will also cover that cost. The main things a foster parent would need to provide would be a bed to sleep in and lots of love and patience.

If you want to find a way to make a positive impact on a child’s life or you would like to enrich your own family please consider becoming a foster parent. To find out more about becoming a licensed foster parent please www.heartfeltcalling.org or call 888-828-8555.

Editor’s Note:
This story on the state of Colleton County’s foster care system is one in a three-part series of news articles that will show you the dire problems that exist in our system, both statewide and locally. The series will also showcase the positive aspects of our systems, and reveal to you solutions. The Colletonian and writer Christie Slocum are proud to bring you this series of investigative stories.

Christie Slocum (538 Posts)