Letter To The Editor: Foster Care

To The Editor:
Across South Carolina, children from all walks of life are in the foster care system due to neglect or abuse from their parents or guardians. Every day we seek safety and permanency for these children be reuniting them with their parents, relative adoption, adoption by someone outside the family or relative custody/guardianship.
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. It is time for our State to stand up and take notice that, as members of a loving and caring society, we have an obligation to these children to ensure they all have a safe, loving, permanent home.
The purpose of the observance of Foster Care Month is to call attention to the value of foster care as a temporary service that provides children and youth with a safe, stable, and nurturing foster family until permanence can be achieved. As of March 31, 2011, there were 4,574 children in foster care and within that number of children, 615 are free for adoption. While 215 children have an identified family, 400 children are waiting for us to find loving families for them.
According to psychiatrist Erik Erikson, there are seven stages of social-emotional development in children and teenagers. Each stage must be satisfactory and build off the previous stage to create a healthy social and emotional adult. The most common influence in all the stages in having a loving, caring, and nurturing parent.
Children in our State deserve a loving family for life. We all know it is extremely difficult to grow up in today’s society. Can you imagine being alone without any adult positive reinforcements? Can you imagine not having any place to go for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Can you imagine not getting a birthday card or present? Many of the 4,574 children in foster care are experiencing issues like these every day.
There are several things you can do to become part of the solution. Becoming a foster parent is one of the most impactful ways to change the life of a child. Foster families open their homes and hearts with love and care, provide guidance, and ensure a safe and stable environment where children can grow and learn. You may ask how would I become a foster parent? The steps are:
1. Complete an application and attend orientation.
2. Undergo criminal background checks, fingerprints and checks of the Central Registry of Abuse and Neglect for all household members 18 years or older. All household members 12 years and older must also undergo a check of the Sex Offenders Registry.
3. Complete 14 hours of training and a home study provided by DSS.
4. Provide references, updated medical records and other personal documents.
5. Home must pass Fire and Health Department inspections.
Serving as a foster parent, you will give yourself a chance to empower others to overcome the cycles of abuse within our State. Working together, we can teach these beautiful children that they are loved and there are other options and opportunities. With your help, each of these children can reach great accomplishments in their personal and professional lives.
If you are not able or not interested in becoming a foster parent, but would like to help, there are other options. Become a mentor to a foster child, start a recruitment group at your local church, contribute through donations of your time, talents or money and tell all your friends and family about the need. Half the battle is getting the word out to the public about our tremendous need for support of foster children.
Foster care can save a life but it should never be a way of life.
Building strong families is the foundation of our communities and our State. Providing love, support, and guidance to our children is necessary for our children to succeed.
For more information about becoming a foster parent, please visit our agency’s website at dss.sc.gov.
Thank you,
Lillian B. Koller, J.D.
DSS State Director

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