COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster was joined by South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Michael Leach, members of the General Assembly, non-profit leaders, and kinship caregivers for a ceremonial bill signing of S.380, a bill that allows DSS to create a Kinship Guardianship Program (KinGAP).

According to officials, Kinship Guardianship is a judicially created relationship between a youth and a responsible adult that provides an exit to foster care as another permanency option when reunification with the youth’s parents or permanency through public adoption is not feasible.

“This law will further strengthen our foster care system by providing our children and their kin
caregivers increased stability,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “It is legislation like this that
makes a true impact on the lives of our children and provides another path for children to exit
the foster care system.”

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, South Carolina was just one of ten states that did
not have a KinGAP program in place to offer this additional resource to caregivers.

This program was created originally at the federal level by the passage of The Fostering Transitions to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which allowed states to draw down additional federal funds to support caregivers.

By adding this statute, sponsored by Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), into state law, South Carolina will now be able to draw down federal dollars to help fund this program.

The KinGAP program, which is set to roll out in South Carolina in early 2024, will mimic the state’s public adoption program and provide a permanent exit from foster care while providing needed monthly financial supports to caregivers to help meet the need for raising the youth exiting foster care until adulthood.

“Research confirms that children do best in kinship foster care and that family connections are
critical to healthy child development, minimizing trauma, and strengthening a sense of
belonging,” said Leach. “Kinship care also helps preserve children’s cultural identity and relationship to their community. The launch of the state’s KinGAP program will help provide additional financial assistance to licensed kinship caregivers, many of whom are retired or living on a fixed income, to care for a child while exiting foster care.”

DSS said expanding kinship care and support for licensed kinship caregivers remains a top priority of DSS. Currently, 25% of children in DSS custody are in a licensed kinship foster placement, a significant increase from 6% about four years ago.

For more information on Kinship Care in South Carolina, click or tap here.