CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - HALOS, a local nonprofit, serving kinship families says they are receiving more calls for assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kinship care is when a relative or family friend cares for a child when their parents are unable to. It keeps the child out of foster care.
Executive director for HALOS Kim Clifton says there are about 74,000 children in kinship care in South Carolina and she says that number is likely under-reported.
"What we want to do is make sure no kids are at risk for having to be brought into care because they are living with a relative who is struggling financially," Clifton said.
The nonprofit serves Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
Clifton says kinship families tend to be less financially stable than perhaps foster parents. That's why HALOS steps in to connect these families with resources to help support them.
"We know there is a risk of financial instability and food insecurity with these families with the majority and through COVID-19 we've certainly seen that," Clifton said. "Many more families are food insecure so we've been connecting them with other organization in the community."
She says they've been able to assist families in the tri-country through donations from private foundations, United Way and other community organizations. The Lowcountry Food Bank and The Shifa Clinic have also assisted with food.
"We've been able to respond immediately to some of those emergency needs which has ranged from bus passes and gas cards, to grocery gift cards, to paying financial electricity bills, rent,"Clifton said.
She says they recently had a grandmother and grandchildren who were homeless for a few days and they were able to connect them with housing.
"We know that children in kinship care do better when they are placed with a relative, they stay connected to family and community, they have fewer behavior problems and we know there's that intangible feeling that you belong," Clifton said.
HALOS serves about 400 families a year and families who might not have needed assistance before do now.
Due to the pandemic, they have held support groups virtually and say they have more participation now than before.
"We suspect that more people are needing that support right now," Clifton said. "More caregivers to interact with other caregivers and talk about the struggles they have maybe suddenly having six kids at home, and they're trying to educate, but also keep safe and fed."
She says a big concern that has come up during the pandemic is child care as people are returning back to work. She says normally they help fund camp for children, but many camps are being cancelled or going virtual.
HALOS is accepting financial donations. They say that money goes directly to families.If you know a kinship family who may need assistance they can contact HALOS at 843-990-9565. For more information about HALOS visit https://charlestonhalos.org/.