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The children need us

With the staggering numbers of children in foster care in our communities, there is always a need for more foster families. Many people consider foster parenting, but often, fear the unknowns of it. The thoughts of “What if we get too attached?” or “What if the child goes back to a bad situation?” seem to steer people away from jumping headfirst into foster parenting.

Of course, there are reasons why one should not be a foster parent, and every person needs to decide if foster care is the right thing to do. However, when considering the reasons not to do foster care, perhaps, one should consider the reasons to become a foster parent. Here are just a few to think about: Foster care really is a mission field, It takes a lot of active players to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect, Foster parenting changes generations, The lessons learned through foster parenting translate to different situations throughout life, There are not enough homes for older children and sibling groups, Far too many children grow up in a setting that does not resemble a family and most importantly, the children need you.

Signing up to be a foster parent is not all that hard to do and with a little work and luck someone could become licensed and approved in as few as three months. There are several steps one must complete before being able to welcome children into their home and it all starts with either calling 888-828-3555 or by filling out an application online at heartfeltcalling.org. Once your application has been approved you will need to complete 16 hours of training which is given by the Foster Parent Association. Training takes places all over the state and can be completed in a few as two weekends, depending on your schedule. Applicants must also pass a criminal background check and be fingerprinted. It is also necessary the applicant have a physical completed by their family doctor to prove they are physically able to care for children. A case worker will visit your home and complete a home study. During this meeting, the case worker will go over more information about being a foster parent. The last step that would need to be completed is a visit from the Fire Marshall where your home will be checked for safety issues such as having the correct smoke alarm installed. Once everything has been completed you will be licensed to open your home to children that need you.

There are other ways you can help the foster care system in South Carolina even if you cannot be a full time foster parent. You could apply to be a foster parent that steps in to help when a foster family has a reason they need to leave town for an emergency or become sick. This is known as respite care. Although the licensing process is the same, this is a way to be a foster parent by not on a full time basis.

Another way communities help foster care children is by proving journey bags to give to children that are removed from their home. Journey bags are a way for children coming into foster care to have essentials to make them feel loved and comfortable. They generally consist of a backpack or duffel bag, filled with age-specific items such as a blanket, pajamas, socks, underwear, toothbrush, stuffed animal, and diapers if appropriate. Journey bags are a great way to help both the foster child and foster parent. It gives the foster parents a little time before they have to run out to the store to purchase things for the child and also gives the child a few things that will help them feel at home.

The Department of Social Services also has angel trees during the holiday season. Children in foster care will have their age and gender listed on a angel with a wish list. Some of the items on their wish list may surprise you as many of their wishes are for essential items such as socks and underwear. Choosing to shop for a child on an angel tree is an easy way to help those in foster care.
Many will say the foster care system is broken but what really seems to be the problem is the lack of help and support those that work in the field and those that find themselves in the system find from the community around them. Putting families back together and keeping them together is the answer everyone is seeking. With help from the community, this goal will be much easier to reach. If you have the time, the space or the money, please reach out and find a way that you can help the children that did not ask to be in the situation. It could change the way the world is shaped around each of us.

For more information on becoming a foster parent or how to provide journey bags or how to sponsor an angel during the holiday season, please call 888-828-3555 or visit heartfeltcalling.org.

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)