Nearly 4 thousand children in foster care across South Carolina
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina foster care system remains in need of parents willing to open their home with 3,945 kids in custody of the Department of Social Services. That number is one of the lowest for kids in the system in the past five years, but workers say it is still a strain.
Brianna Kaldenbach is a foster parent of six years who works as a foster parent liaison with the Department of Social Services.
“We just really encourage people to reach out and ask us questions,” Kaldenbach says. “You know, we want to be able to answer their questions. We want to be able to talk through fears, because sometimes fears are real.”
She says people often think the process will be hard. Kaldenbach says it is long, but not painful. She says it is important to walk through all your questions and make sure you are ready and open to the idea of welcoming someone into your home.
There are 1,541 children in foster care, ranging from infants to six years old, making up 39% of the population, 1,066 kids ages seven to twelve making up 27% of the population and 1,338 teens, ages 13 to 17, making up 34% of the population. These are real time numbers from the Department of Social Services.
Charleston County has the third largest need for foster parents in the state, with 261 children in the system. Other Lowcountry counties include Dorchester with 51 children, Berkeley with 145 children and Colleton with 43 children.
Danielle Washington has been a foster parent for two years. She says as a middle school teacher and then a principal, she interacted with a lot of kids in the system every day, and they inspired her to foster.
“Just that personal interaction with the kids that I saw in and out of care and wondering, are you safe, are they treating you okay, are you okay, and well, I could be the answer to that,” Washington says.
She says it has been a blessing getting to know six kids, ranging in age from nine to 14 over the past two years.
“It’s not always a give give give, they come with different backgrounds and personalities, and gifts and so I learn from them just as much as they learn from me,” Washington says. “So, a blessing on both ends, a blessing to give and to be able to receive from them.”
Vanessa Smalls is a family service coordinator at the National Youth Advocacy Program’s Charleston office. She says the two main qualifications to being a foster parent are to have loving heart and an open mind.
“There is no set way one way to be a foster parent, you can be married divorce, a single person an empty nester or an early nester,” Smalls says. “Anyone can be a foster parent. We are trying our hardest to meet that need. At this point in time it’s been a struggle getting people who are interested in being foster parents, and so our goal is just to reach out to as many people as we possibly can.”
The Department of Social Services reported the fourth infant surrendered to the system so far this year under Daniel’s Law on Thursday. Daniel’s law allows a person to safely surrender a baby less than 60 days old to specific safe locations, like hospitals, to prevent dangerous abandonments. Since it was signed into law in 2001, 53 babies have been safely surrendered.
Smalls says the National Youth Advocacy Program is focused on the kids they are helping now, saying it is too soon to tell if recent abortion legislation will lead to an influx of kids in the system.
“Only the future will be able to tell what impact this the Roe vs. Wade decision is going to have on fostering,” Smalls says. “Because if it is overwhelming at this point in time, imagine how much more overwhelming it’s going to be if this decision has a certain level of impact.”
Kaldenbach says she brings a unique perspective to the topic as a foster parent who also works for social services. She loves to meet people interested in fostering and says it is important to build a community of support for your foster kids as well as yourself through the process.
“You’re going to grow in ways that you never thought possible,” Kaldenbach says. “Your family on the first day you apply is going to look a lot different after your first placement. And these are really good things. Anytime that we see difference or work as a community or work just to improve lives, we can’t go wrong there.”
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