GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – there is a renewed push to supply the same financial support for kinship caregivers as foster families receive.
Senate Bill 191, sponsored by Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington and Sen. Thomas McElveen of Sumter, is making it’s way through the State House in Columbia. It’s aimed at helping the estimated 74,000 children in South Carolina living in homes headed by grandparents or other relatives.
A kinship caregiver is a relative or close family friend who takes in another relatives child after the child has been removed from their home.
It happens when a parent dies, is incarcerated, or the child is removed for other reasons.
Foster families in South Carolina are currently paid between $300-$500 dollars per month per child.
Kinship caregivers do not receive a stipend.
John Schafer is a grandfather who lives in Easley. After he and his wife unsuccessfully fought for custody of their grandchildren after they were removed from their parents home, he realized grandparents need someone to fight for their rights to their grandchildren.
Schafer started the Grandparents Rights Association of the US, an organization that has put him in contact with other kinship caregivers facing struggles.
“They want that child bad enough to stay out of the foster care system that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep that child with the family,” said Schafer.
According to the Department of Social Services website, there are 4,600 children living in state custody.
The Kinship Care Bill recognizes the shortage of foster parents and the many aunt, uncles, grandparents, and close family friends who have stepped up to the plate to raise children even when they may be retired and on a fixed or small income.
Sen. Shealy said when a family member or grandparent obtains custody they don’t necessarily receive funds.
“Let’s say Aunt Betty has 4 children of her own. Then something happens to her sister and she gets four more children. She may not be able to afford it,” said Shealy.
Under the bill, kinship caregivers who receive stipends would face the same background checks that DSS require for foster parents.
The bill faces a third reading in the Senate Tuesday. If approved in the Senate, it will be sent to the House for consideration.
A “Kinship Care Day at the Capital” is planned for March 19 beginning at 10:45 am.