Foster care is crucial in our imperfect world
By: Bob Sloan
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. It provides an opportunity for the South Carolina Department of Social Services to draw attention to the need for foster parents across the state.
Children come into foster care when their parents cannot safely care for them and no other alternative for placement exists. As of May 1, there are more than 4,600 children in foster care in South Carolina and only approximately 3,500 licensed foster homes.
“Foster parents provide a safe, loving home when our children need it most, and this month, we proudly recognize the heroes - our foster parents -who have opened their homes and hearts to care for our state’s most vulnerable children and youth,” said SCDSS Director Michael Leach.
Once a determination is made that it is not safe for a child to remain in the home of a parent or guardian, the child may be placed in foster care.
The foster care program is designed to be a temporary home away from home while qualified professionals work with the family to address child-safety concerns.
Children in foster care come from many backgrounds and situations. They are children of all ages and races. A great many of them have special needs, including teenagers, siblings and children with physical, emotional and/or behavioral disabilities.
The ideal goal is always to return children to their families. Until then, they need a safe, caring environment in which to live. The reality is that in many cases returning the children to their parents or guardians is neither wise nor safe. In such a situation, foster care moves from a short-term stay to a placement that could last months or even years.
While all children in the state’s foster care system are presently in a safe placement, more than half are placed outside of their home counties or have been separated from their siblings. This means children who already experience the trauma of separation from their parents are also being separated from their other support systems – their school, church, sports teams and everyone they know.
It takes a special person or couple to be a foster parent. It’s not easy, either physically or emotionally. Not everyone can do it. And, yes, there are some bad foster parents, but there are always going to be a few bad apples. By and large, foster parents are extraordinarily selfless people.
South Carolina needs about 1,100 additional homes so children can remain in their counties of origin, sibling groups can stay together and teens, which are hardest to place, can be cared for in the home of a loving family.
Leach said recruitment of additional foster families is a top priority.
In a perfect world, foster care would not be needed.
In a perfect world, children would never be abused or neglected.
It is not a perfect world.
In our world, children are orphaned, sadly others are abandoned, abused and neglected, making foster care so important and foster families so needed and appreciated.
Anyone interested in becoming a licensed foster parent or learning more about ways to support foster parents in your community is encouraged to visit www. scfamilies.org or call (888) 828-3555.