2018-11-30 / News

New directory an asset for foster care in South Carolina

Every day in South Carolina, several thousand children are living outside their family homes because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other situations, says Megan Branham, director of policy and research for the Palmetto Association for Children & Families.

“These children are served by private provider agencies that provide care in emergency, long-term, and adoptive settings,” Branham explained. “Many of these agencies belong to an organization dedicated to helping ensure the quality of care the children receive—the Palmetto Association for Children and Families (PAFCAF). While many of these children are placed with provider agencies through the Department of Social Services, many of our PAFCAF members also provide services throughout their communities or statewide to families privately.”

With this in mind, the agency came up with the Foster Care Provider and Services directory, a searchable database of foster care providers and services in South Carolina which launched this month.

It was an idea first included with the agency’s strategic plan in the spring at the direction of the board of directors.

Once the plan was in place, agency officials sought out technology to host the database, and then worked with members to create profiles and upload information to the database.

“Prior to the creation of the PAFCAF member database, there was no true directory of child welfare services in our state,” Branham stated. “Local organizations or cities may have directories of services in their areas and the state has a directory that is used internally by state employees, but the public did not have access to a resource with the ability to search and view services and organizations who are in their area and around the state.”

The board of directors saw a need for such a tool in the foster care community, yet newly passed federal law, the Family First Prevention Services Act, made it a critical need for the agency.

“Each year roughly 7,800 children come into our foster care system, and as the state adapts to changes resulting from the new law and its requirement for child welfare systems nationwide, we will see changes to the child welfare system in South Carolina,”Branham said. “As a result, we will need to put a targeted emphasis on increasing the number of foster homes across the state. This directory is one step we are taking as an association to ensure our children are in safe and loving homes.”

Families, members of the public, and agencies will be able to search for private placement options, prevention services, and community-based services such as counseling, parenting classes, job search assistance, referrals to other community organizations, and in-home support.

“These services are critical for keeping families intact and supporting the communities in which they live,” Branham said.

Every foster parent must go through a state-run training and application processes.

“It is very important to cultivate a relationship with our local members, especially if a foster parent is willing to open their heart and home to a child with behavioral or medical needs and become a therapeutic foster parent,” Branham said. “Therapeutic foster homes are one of the greatest needs across our state. Safe and healthy placements where children who have severe mental, emotional, or behavioral health needs can be cared for until reunited with their families or placed in their forever family through adoption. By reaching out and creating a relationship with local organizations, foster parents are better connected to resources, trainings, and additional services as they go through the process to become a therapeutic foster parent.”

Branham said after visiting the database and identifying a local organization providing the needed service, many members list events, resources, and contact information for those wanting to take the next step.

While this is great progress, Branham said the agency doesn’t want to stop here.

“We’d love to continue to expand on this database, it has been a great educational tool for us as a membership organization as well as for our individual members,” Branham said. “Over the next several years, it will be changing drastically with the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act. PAFCAF is committed to ensuring our state makes the appropriate investments and provides the resources necessary to make this a smooth transition for our members and the children they serve. This database is one way in which we are looking ahead and making the appropriate investments now to ensure success down the road.”

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