On March 20th, 2018 the Foundation hosted South Carolina’s first Kinship Care Day at the Capitol. This day, which honored and uplifted kinship caregivers across our state, brought together government officials, organizations, and kinship caregivers themselves to show the importance of a collective voice.

It is important to the Foundation to continue to champion kinship care families because they are a major part of the fabric of our state.

“The fact that over 50,000 children in South Carolina are being raised by a grandparent or other relative is proof enough that kinship care is an important issue. Our Foundation strives to help these families receive the support they need so they can live normal and productive lives,” Tom Keith, Foundation President, said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kinship care “refers to the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin). Relatives are the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents because it maintains the children’s connections with their families. Kinship care is often considered a type of family preservation service.”

At the event, keynote speaker Susan Alford, Director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, spoke about the significance of kinship families and how vital they are to the success of S.C. children.

“Children often blame themselves for being removed from their homes. They think ‘If I was just smarter or brighter or helpful I could’ve fixed it.’ Then, in the process of being removed they don’t feel truly owned by their family. When they get to stay within their family they get to stay within their tribe. Feeling loved and nurtured by their own gives them a trajectory to do better in their lives,” Alford said.

Government officials also spoke to the crowd, sharing their stories of learning about kinship care and stating their strong support of kinship families.

“Kinship care might be a new term for most people, but kinship care has been around since the beginning of time,” Sen. Brad Hutto, said. “These are families who are doing what is best for our children and will continue to support them.”

Reps. Joshua Putnam and Neal Collins both shared the sentiment that S.C. can do more for kinship care families, and mentioned House bill 3701, which ensures kinship caregivers will now be eligible for a assistance, much like foster care parents.

Lastly, the event would not have been possible without kinship care families taking the time to attend. Several kinship caregivers shared their stories of how they became kinship caregivers. Although caregivers shared the struggles they face of making ends meet or helping their child through school, each one said that they would do it all over again.

Although the Foundation launched its Kinship Care Initiative in 2014, it is important for the Foundation to find new and innovative ways to reach this population that often feels unheard.

“Kinship Care Day at the Capitol served the Foundation’s way of addressing kinship caregivers. These families need to be heard by legislators and the larger community. We wanted to honor their courageous stories by offering them a platform to share, and hopefully evoke change,” Chynna Phillips, Research and Policy Associate, said.