SC DSS reports lower number of children in foster care

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services reports that as of May, around 3,700 children are in foster care across the state — compared to just under 4,500 children this time five years ago.

Connelly-Anne Ragley, Director of the Office of Communications for SC DSS, says the drop may stem from a combination of things — including a heavier focus on abuse and neglect prevention by offering parents more resources, community services, and training to minimize childhood trauma.

Reunification numbers have also increased with over 1,500 children being reunited with their families through rehabilitation programs last year.

Foster care is meant to be a temporary ministry. So that we can work to rehabilitate that family, to get them the support and resources that they need to maybe make some adjustments in the family. Maybe it’s a parenting course or a substance use that needs to be treated. But really foster care is a story of redemption and getting that child to permanency,” says Ragley.

In 2022, there were a higher number of adoptions as well, with 575 children finding permanent homes.

Ragley says those who are interested in becoming a foster parent should reach out to SC DSS.

“You don’t have to be married. You don’t have to be the perfect parent or be super rich. You just have to have an open mind and an open heart most importantly,” Ragley says.

DSS is specifically looking for folks to foster older children and siblings.

“We are recruiting foster parents that are willing to take sibling groups as well as older children. I know many foster parents have their hearts set on a baby or a toddler, but let me tell you, teenagers — they are so cool and they need just the same love and respect that younger children do, and better yet, you don’t have to change any diapers with a teenager.”

Governor Henry McMaster signed Bill S.380,  also known as “The Kin-Gap Legislation” earlier this week. The bill is expected to provide an additional pathway to permanency for children in foster care by allowing extended family to care for children and receive financial assistance.

“We think that we’ll continue to see numbers in foster care decline. And that is the ultimate goal,” says Ragley.

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