Kinship Care Initiative
In South Carolina, over 50,000 grandparents have primary responsibility for their grandchildren.
Like many families, relatives take on the added responsibility of raising a loved one’s child/children often unexpectedly. This practice is referred to as kinship care and in recent years has been a focus within the state in order to provide a better alternative for a child who is faced with entering the foster care system. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 annual report, extended family members and close family friends care for more than 2.7 million children in the United States, an increase of 18 percent over the past decade.
Many kinship families face obstacles and challenges due to the unanticipated responsibility of grandparents and other relatives having to raise a child. An alarming number of kin caregivers experience poverty or are considered low income. In order to better understand the plight of kinship families, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina held a Listening Session with Helping and Lending Outreach Services (HALOS) in the spring of 2012. Foundation staff and Board members heard first-hand challenges of kin caregivers. The majority of kin caregivers are older adults, living on a fixed monthly income that did not adequately support the needs of a child. In addition to financial hardship, many families did not know where to turn for support such as legal assistance, respite care, and coordination of benefits.
In the fall of 2013, Foundation President, Tom Keith met with representatives from the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) as a continuation of the stories heard from the Listening Session. Mr. Keith learned more about kinship care policies and practices that were currently in place. The meeting offered valuable insight; however, it was apparent that more work was needed in order to meet the needs of this population. Program manager Tamara Peterson began researching best practices and model states that have improved outcomes for kinship families. The research further explained the benefits and challenges to kinship care and strategies for South Carolina to advance the level of support offered to families.
As an outgrowth of the Listening Session and research, the Foundation made plans to launch a Kinship Care Initiative in early 2014. The Initiative will be 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.