COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Due to the increasing number of children needing safe homes, the South Carolina Department of Social Services says both Richland and Lexington counties are in great need of foster families.
Kids enter foster care when their home is no longer safe for them and there is no other relative that can take them in.
SCDSS says more than 270 foster families are needed in Richland and Lexington counties. Families are needed in those areas so the children can stay in a safe and nurturing home while remaining in their community.
The focus on Richland and Lexington counties is part of a public awareness campaign, SCDSS says, to concentrate recruitment efforts on local levels.
"When children come into care, it's important to keep them close to home if possible," said Dawn Barton, Regional Director over the Midlands. "That allows them to stay in the same school, attend the same church and other activities and be near their support network, however tenuous it might be."
DSS says there is a specific need in the Midlands for families that can care for groups of siblings – since most of the children coming into care have at least one sibling.
"We make every effort to place them together as a group, but that's not always possible because of the shortage of families who can care for more than one child," Barton said. "Often, those children are the only support network for each other."
On average, it takes about four months to become a licensed foster parent. SCDSS says you must be able to demonstrate the ability to care for a child, attend some training, undergo a background check and have a home inspection. You don't have to be married or own your home.
"You pass these children and families in the grocery store, at church, and at the ballpark," Barton said. "People better understand the need when they see what it looks like in their neighborhood, their school, their community."
You can begin the process of becoming a foster parent by visiting the SCDSS website or by calling Heartfelt Calling at (888) 828-3555.