CEO Sue Williams testified earlier this month in support of a bill that would provide financial support for kinship caregivers in South Carolina.
Children’s Trust CEO Sue Williams testified to the Senate Family and Veteran Services subcommittee earlier this month in support of a bill to establish a kinship guardianship assistance program in South Carolina.
The S.C. Department of Social Services (DSS) estimates that statewide there are about 70,000 kinship caregivers — relatives or family friends who care for children after they have been removed from their homes.
The program proposed in S. 380 would improve support by allowing relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of eligible children to receive assistance payments, similar to those that foster parents receive. This would ultimately affect the youth who make up 23 percent of children in the foster care system.
“We believe South Carolina should do everything it can to support families – especially those involved in kinship care. We believe opting into the Guardianship Assistance Program would be a big step in the right direction for these vulnerable children,” Williams said during her testimony on February 2.
South Carolina is one of 10 states that has not opted into the federal Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program.
Williams noted during her testimony that in the past few years, State Director Michael Leach and his leadership team at the S.C. Department of Social Services have promoted kinship care as a positive alternative for children who are removed from their homes. It offers the opportunity for youth to maintain familial, cultural and community ties—all of which are critical for a child’s well-being and to mitigate the effects of trauma.
“It is up to us to do all we can do to help kids settle into their new normal, with as few disruptions as possible, so that they can begin their healing and recovery process,” Williams said.
The bill has passed the Senate and was introduced to the House on February 16.
Transcript of Sue Williams’s testimony to the Senate Family and Veteran Services subcommittee on Thursday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m.
Good morning, Chairman Young and subcommittee members. My name is Sue Williams, and I am the chief executive officer for Children’s Trust of South Carolina. Today, I am here to speak in support of S. 380, the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program.
Children’s Trust was established in 1984 by the South Carolina General Assembly (Title 63, Chapter 11, Article 9) as the South Carolina Children’s Trust Fund. It is an eleemosynary corporation that awards grants to private nonprofit organizations and qualified state agencies to fund a broad range of innovative child abuse and neglect prevention programs to meet the critical needs of South Carolina’s children. We are the only statewide organization focused on preventing child abuse and neglect in South Carolina – before it happens.
We lead and support a network of community-based organizations, which share the belief that all children should thrive, live in secure families and be surrounded by supportive communities. To that end, we fund proven prevention programs, conduct high-quality data and trend analysis, and offer training for professionals so they have the tools they need to help children and families in counties across the state. Among our many programs and initiatives, we lead the South Carolina Adverse Childhood Experiences (also known as ACEs) Initiative. The original ACE study showed the long-term effects of childhood trauma on adult health and behavior.
In a perfect world every child would have a safe, loving and nurturing home, and no child would ever need to be removed from their home and separated from their parents. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and our colleagues at the South Carolina Department of Social Services too often must intervene to ensure safety and stability for children.
Under the leadership of Director Michael Leach and his leadership team, DSS has worked hard to promote kinship care which allows children who have been removed from their homes to stay with relatives and /or family friends. These practices give children, who are in the midst of tremendous family upheaval and trauma, the opportunity to be cared for by those who know them and in communities that are familiar to them.
For a child who has been removed from their parents in incredibly difficult, and sometimes unspeakable circumstances, these children’s experiences can be terrifying and toxic. As mentioned before, we know the effects of these ACEs — the shorter-term behavioral issues, psychiatric disorders and school disruptions as well as the long-term negative health and social outcomes as adults.
So, as we like to say, “When we know better, we need to do better.” It is up to us to do all we can do to help kids settle into their new normal, with as few disruptions as possible, so that they can begin their healing and recovery process. While we all recognize and appreciate the critical role foster care can play in a child’s life, guardianship offers children the stability of a permanent home while maintaining the connections to family, friends and community, especially when adoption is not feasible.
Unfortunately, South Carolina is one of 10 states that has not opted into the federal Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program. This federal formula grant program allows relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of eligible children to receive assistance payments – similar to those that foster parents receive. We believe South Carolina should do everything it can to support families – especially those involved in kinship care. We believe opting into the Guardianship Assistance Program would be a big step in the right direction for these vulnerable children.
I appreciate your attention to this matter and thank you for your commitment to the children and families in South Carolina. I am happy to answer any questions.