Today, 3767 children are in South Carolina’s foster care due to abuse or neglect. In my county alone, there are 415 children. Those numbers are overwhelming. When we are overwhelmed, we may be inclined to turn away and ignore the daunting task of meeting the needs of these children. We cannot afford to ignore the crisis of foster care, the impact of trauma on children and families – and on us. Trauma has lasting impacts on the entire community.
As a life-long social worker, I have worked to build up strong families and to help children thrive. There are many people that serve children on the frontlines of foster care - case managers, advocates, foster parents, and judges. But it takes all of us – every community member – to champion bright futures for children. You might ask yourself, “what can I do to help?”
Raise awareness about foster care in your community. There are lots of myths and misconceptions about foster care. Many people do not realize that there is a crisis of children needing homes, temporarily in foster care or forever through adoption, in their own backyard. As you learn about the need in your own community, you can better advocate for children and encourage others to get involved.
Support families who are currently fostering. Foster parents share their homes, hearts, and lives with children as their parents or family members work towards reunification. You can support foster families by offering prayer and encouragement, donating clothing or gift cards for groceries, or sponsoring fun activities for the family. You can support children and youth as a mentor, tutor, or teaching life-skills.
Get involved by becoming a foster parent. South Carolina DSS estimates that 2189 more foster placements are needed - specifically families who will welcome older children and teens. Did you know that this year 20,000+ young people will age out of US foster care without a permanent family? The outcomes for these youth are devastating. There is also a significant need for families who can keep siblings together. Did you know 50% of kids in US foster care are separated from at least one sibling because there are not enough homes to keep them together?
May is Foster Care Awareness Month. I am so grateful for foster parents, relatives, and friends that stand in the gap for families as they work towards reunification. I am so proud when I think of our state’s foster parents who champion children and families. At Thornwell, I think of the single foster mom who fiercely advocates for her teen’s needs, the young family who welcomed a sibling group so that brothers could stay together. There is a family who welcomed a pregnant teen and provided encouragement as she brought a precious life into the world.
Not everyone can foster or adopt, but everyone can find a way to support children and families. Learn about what is happening in your community, find ways to support those on the frontlines, and determine a way that you can get involved. It takes all of us to create empowered communities in which all people can experience both life and love in abundance. We are striving for that every day at Thornwell – we hope you will join us!
Director of Foster Care at Thornwell
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