Let me be the first to say congratulations, you are interested in knowing what foster care in SC is all about. It may seem a little intimidating to get started if you are unsure of the process. I hope this article helps calm a few of those nerves and helps you understand foster care in SC a little better.
What is Foster Care in SC
Let’s start at the beginning, what is foster care? Foster care is a temporary placement where an adult cares for children and youth that are unable to live with their biological parents. When birth parents are unable for whatever reason to be able to provide adequate, safe care for the children, foster care provides the child with a safe place to live. Foster care is different than adoption. The ultimate goal of foster care is reunification. Meaning, the children will be placed back with their biological parents. This is not always in the child’s best interest so there are cases where adoption from foster care is possible.
Children enter the foster care system for a multitude of different reasons. Usually, it is through intervention by the Department of Social Services or law enforcement. This usually happens through a report of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. An investigation will occur and if it is determined that the child is in an unsafe environment, the child will be removed and placed in foster care. There is a process DSS must go through. This process includes obtaining a court order to remove the child. Children can also enter the foster care system through the juvenile justice system.
Different Types of Foster Care in SC
There are several types of foster care which include the following:
Private Homes: In-home private foster parents are probably the most common type of foster care. These parents are licensed by the state to provide care for children in their homes. Every foster parent must meet certain rules and requirements set by the state to ensure the child’s well-being and safety while placed in their home. Foster care parents come in all forms. They could have biological children, other foster children, no children at all, or adult children in their homes. There is no magic answer as to what type of home makes the best foster home. However, certain foster care children will be best served in homes with other children, no children, or adult children. It will depend on the child’s history. Make sure you talk to your social worker to know what your foster child’s past experiences have been to make sure your home is the best fit for him/her.
Residential/Group Homes: Residential homes or also known as group homes, work well with children whose needs are best met in a structured environment. These residential homes are licensed and monitored by the state. They usually home four to 12 children. A residential home would be best for children who have been involved with the juvenile justice system, have mental health problems, or have behavioral problems and need the extra treatment plan. Residential homes are operated by public or private agencies and provide 24-hour non-medical care and supervision to the children. These homes can range from large residential centers to small home environments that incorporate a “house parent” model. Residential homes can provide more services than the standard foster care home. These services could include but are not limited to, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, vocational training, and emancipation.
Therapeutic Foster Care: Therapeutic foster care uses foster parents who have specialized training to care for children who have specific needs. These usually include specialized medical, emotional, behavioral, or social needs.
Kinship Care: Kinship care is the care of children by relatives or close family friends. This is not the same as foster care as the caregiver does not need to be licensed for the child to be placed in their home. However, federal law does require that the department determine if a child can live safely with the relative before placing the child with the relative/family friend. The biological parents should be permitted to suggest a relative or friend who might be able to care for the child, and if that person is found fit to care for the child, then the child could be placed with him/her. Kinship caregivers do not receive the foster care payment (more about that below).
How to Become a Foster Parent
What does it take to become a foster care parent? Let’s talk through the process of foster care in SC. First, you must choose an agency to work with. The agency will work with you to become approved to become a foster parent. They will also work with you once children begin entering your home. You are never alone in this process. No matter what agency you choose, the process is essentially the same. There is not usually a fee associated with becoming a foster parent, however, there are some requirements that your home needs that you may have to purchase if you do not already have them. There are also medical requirements that you may have to pay out of pocket if your insurance does not cover them. Several steps need to be taken to become licensed for foster care. They are as follows:
1. Choose an agency to work with (they might slightly differ in the order of the steps they prefer you do).
2. Contact the agency you chose. Again, they might have a little different order to the process.
3. Schedule an appointment to get fingerprints done. You can ask your agency who they suggest you get them done with.
4. Schedule medical appointments for all household members. There are certain requirements/shots/etc. that will need to be done. Make sure you get a list from your agency.
5. Complete all the necessary paperwork from your agency. Don’t get overwhelmed, but it is a lot of paperwork to fill out!
6. Complete the home visits. Your agency worker will have to visit your home at least two times. Don’t panic and be yourself!
7. You must also attend mandatory training. There is a minimum of 14 hours of pre-service training before you can be licensed. This training will contain great information as you move forward in hosting children in your home. Take notes. Be prepared.
8. Prepare your home for inspection. These are the fire inspections and the Department of Health and Environmental Control health inspections that you must pass. This is where you are required to have certain safety measures in your home, including fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, outlet covers, and gun cabinets. Again, talk with your worker to make sure you have all the requirements as needed.
9. Now it’s time to wait. This might be the hardest part. Only because you do not know how long it will take exactly and it feels like a lot of pressure. But don’t fret too much, it is a process and all i’s must be dotted and t’s must be crossed. Enjoy the wait time before your life changes and you change the life of a child.
10. Get your license! Yay. You made it to the end of the process and you are now foster care licensed. You will then be able to take children into your home.
As I mentioned above, the ultimate goal of the foster care system is reunification, but, ultimately, the goal is to have a permanency plan for the child, whether that be with biological parents or in a foster home with someone who can adopt the child.
I am sure you have several questions. I am going to address just a few other things you might be wondering about foster care in SC.
Can you foster if both you and your spouse work? Yes. You will need to discuss this with your agency worker and how you intend to make childcare arrangements for the children who enter your home.
Can I foster if I homeschool? Yes, you can still homeschool your children but children that are in foster care are required to attend public school.
Can I foster if I own guns? Yes, you can still foster if you own guns and you can still keep the guns. However, you will need to discuss this with your agency worker. You will also need to store the guns and ammunition in separate locations which are both safe and locked.
Can single people become foster care parents? Yes, you can still become foster care parents if you are not married. The only requirement is that you are over the age of 21.
Can same-sex couples become foster parents? Yes, same-sex couples may become foster parents in South Carolina. Again, talk with your agency worker about this.
Do I need a certain size house to become a foster parent? No, there is no size requirement, however, each child that enters your home must have their own sleeping arrangement. There are other requirements regarding the age and sex of the children. Make sure to discuss with your agency worker if you have other children in your home. You are also permitted to move while you are foster parents. However, your new home will need to be approved as well.
Costs and Expenses
The state of South Carolina reimburses foster care parents at the rate of $404 per month or $13.46 per day for newborns to children 5 years old, $469 per month or $15.63 per day for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and $535 per month or $17.83 per day for children between the ages of 13 and 21. Foster care parents are paid this rate to cover basic expenses while placed with you. These expenses include food, clothing, school, child care, and extracurricular activities. It is your responsibility to get the child to school, doctor appointments, extracurricular activities, and the like. If you work outside of the home and need child care for your foster child, you are responsible for obtaining proper child care. Children in foster care are eligible for ABC vouchers for daycare. However, there can be an additional cost. You would be responsible for the additional cost.
What about the biological parents? What do they need to know? What will they receive when their children are in foster care? In cases where it is appropriate and safe, the biological parents will be notified of the nature and location of the child. There are times when this is not in the best interest of the child. Every child that enters foster care will receive an individualized care plan. This plan may be adjusted through the child’s stay in foster care. The child will be provided with age-appropriate information about being in foster care. This, of course, is situational and will be based on a case-by-case basis.
It would be helpful for biological parents to share as much information with the foster family (or agency worker) as possible. This can include but not be limited to the following:
Special needs of the child
Names of doctors
Developmental or behavioral problems
Names of friends
Names of family
A child needs to have the least amount of change to their routines. Having this information will be very helpful for the foster family and the child’s transition.
If appropriate, a visitation plan will be in place for the biological parents and child to still have contact. These visits can be supervised or unsupervised. These visits may occur regularly or may need to be stopped depending on the situation. Every child is different and every situation is unique. Again, reunification is the goal of foster care in SC. The agency worker and foster families will work cooperatively to make a plan to make sure reunification happens.
I hope this article helped help you decide on foster care in SC. If you have additional questions, check out Adoption.com for more detailed information or check with your local DSS office.
Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.