In South Carolina, over 50,000 grandparents have primary responsibility for their grandchildren. There is also the growing number of extended family members or close family friends who care for a relative’s child. This practice is often referred to as kinship care and, in recent years has become known as a better alternative than placing children in the foster care system. However, many kinship families face obstacles and challenges due to the unanticipated responsibility of grandparents and other relatives having to raise a child. An alarming amount of kin caregivers experience poverty or are considered low income.
In order to hear first-hand the stories, experiences and challenges of kin caregivers, the Foundation held a Listening Session with Helping and Lending Outreach Services (HALOS) in the spring of 2012. Foundation representatives and community stakeholders listened to heartfelt stories and difficulties that impact many kinship care families. The challenges seen by a large number of families were the lack of financial and support services specifically for kin caregivers. In order to advocate and bring a voice to kin caregivers across South Carolina, the Foundation launched a Kinship Care Initiative in early 2014 as a continuation of the stories heard from the Listening Session.
The Kinship Care Initiative continues our mission to help others live out of poverty by advocating and raising awareness for families that are often overlooked due to their socioeconomic status. As a part of the beginning phase of the Initiative, research was conducted on the current status of kinship care in South Carolina and how we compare to model states. The Research Mini-Brief was released in early 2014 and addressed issues ranging from the benefits and challenges kin caregivers face to recommendations for South Carolina to improve kinship provider outreach.
The Initiative is dedicated to improving kinship families’ well-being, resources and services. This will be achieved through the development of a Kinship Care Task Force, grant making, and strategic partnerships with organizations that are committed to improving outcomes for kinship families. Our sincere hope as a Foundation is to increase permanency, stability and livelihood of kinship families so that children in our state live in safe, loving homes.
Kinship Care Initiative Timeline
2016: Added representatives to the Statewide Kinship Care Advisory Council from the Palmetto Association for Children & Families, Empowering Families Network/SAFY, Fostering Great Ideas and Miracle Hill Ministries; the Children’s Trust of South Carolina included in their Legislative Priority Areas for 2016 supporting policies that help kinship care families meet the needs of the children they take into care; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented to the South Carolina Children’s Justice Act Task Force on kinship care in February; provided input to the South Carolina Department of Social Services Strategic Development Council and the South Carolina Department of Social Services Senate Oversight Committee Child Welfare Reform Group; presented to South Carolina Program for Infant and Toddler Care in March on the importance of early attachment; supported South Carolina Department of Social Services 2016 Empowering Girls Conference for girls with foster care experience (kinship, adoption, reunification or guardianship status) to build their independent living skills in March; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented to the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children in March; Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children released 2016 Annual Report and Data Reference Book to members of the General Assembly in April which included a brand new focus and attention on kinship care as an outgrowth of previous kinship care testimony that various Council members provided; South Carolina Department of Social Services request to legislators to provide financial support to licensed kinship families approved in July; Chynna A. Phillips interviewed numerous kinship caregivers from across the state over summer months; partnered with the Palmetto Association for Children & Families, The Duke Endowment, HALOS and the South Carolina Department of Social Services to provide 5 Kinship Care trainings featuring Dr. Joseph Crumbley across the state with 691 people attending and kinship caregiver testimonies provided in each region; continued grant support to HALOS in partnership with The Duke Endowment; provided grant to Richland School District Two to support their Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented to the PACFAF Executives Retreat and Annual Meeting on Kinship Care in June; Council Members Kim Clifton, Dan Bracken, Marie Tanis and Foundation Representative Chynna A. Phillips testified for the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children Public Hearings in Fall; introduced HALOS to South Carolina Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council in November; served on South Carolina Department of Social Services Kinship Care Workgroup, including sub-group focused on kinship foster care licensing.
2015: Established and convened Statewide Kinship Care Advisory Council with representatives from six organizations invited to serve: HALOS, South Carolina Department of Social Services, The Children’s Trust, University of South Carolina’s Center for Child and Family Studies, University of South Carolina Children’s Law Center and the South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging;
2014: Kinship Care Initiative launched in conjunction with Kinship Care Summit in September; released Research Brief, A Place to Belong: A Closer Look at Kinship Providers and Their Families in September; publically announced formalized partnership for 2015 with The Annie E. Casey Foundation in October.
2013: Foundation President Tom Keith met with South Carolina Department of Social Services representatives and The Children’s Law Office to learn more about kinship care policies and practices in September; conducted research on the needs of kinship families.
2012: Held Unsung Heroes Listening Session in Charleston with HALOS kinship caregivers in April (demographics of caregivers included the following: 90% African American; 53% ages 53-64; 62% lived in a household of 4 to 6 people; 57% were unemployed or not working; 90% had an educational level of a high school diploma or less; 71% had a household income of less than $25,000).
2007: First Grant Awarded to Helping and Lending Outreach Support (HALOS) to support their program for relatives raising children in the absence of their parents in the tri-county areas of Charleston, Dorchester and Berkley counties. This first grant initially brought to the Foundation’s attention the unmet needs of kinship families. Additional grants were awarded to HALOS in subsequent years.
For more information, contact Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Vice President of Initiatives and Public Policy.