Governor McMaster signs bill to strengthen foster care
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – A South Carolina bill signed today will provide an extended voluntary foster care program when a child ages out of foster care on their 18th birthday.
Growing up in foster care can be challenging for teens as they move to be on their own. The journey can be quite difficult says 20-year-old Sierra Burns who has been in foster care since she was 16.
“When I turned 18, I immediately left out of a desire to be out on my own. I felt I was ready but I was proven wrong and needed emergency housing two months after I turned 18. Without reaching out I would have been homeless and would have been unable to provide food or any other basic needs for myself,“ says Burns.
South Carolina Department of Social Security already provides support for young adults in foster care ages 18 to 21 who are transitioning into adulthood through a federal act that provides states funding. Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill today that will allow the state to draw federal funding as well to further expand the program. Connell-Anne Ragley with D.S.S. says the department is currently serving around 160 youth who have voluntarily signed themselves back into foster care and will receive assistance with housing, transportation, education and much more.
“What we know is that youth that spend time in foster care are more likely to experience some hardships as they begin their adulthood lives. They may have trouble completing their education whether its high school, GED, continuing on to a two year or four year degree program, trade or vocational school. They may face homelessness or mental health issues or other supports that maybe teenagers in a traditional family setting may not experience because they are going to have the same supports as many of us experienced as youth,” says Ragley.
Ragley also says for many foster children its a scary anticipation that comes as they get older knowing they’ll have to walk this road alone and this bill can provide the support needed to be successful and productive adults.
”Without foster care I would have been out in the world likely forced to go back to my abusive parents and gone through more hardships,“ says Burns.