By Erin Galloway Hall
The phrase “foster care” inspires much discussion and passion around our state and the country. Many of you have volunteered or donated to a local children’s home or foster care agency. Maybe your church has multiple foster families whom you support. Perhaps your community has been attached to a children’s home for decades and you have memories of playing with the kids in their backyard.
For others, “foster care” means where you grew up, where you missed your family but felt safe for the first time. Where you made new friends and became attached to adults who felt like family. Maybe you remember the other kids who lived in the foster home and you wonder what became of them and where they are today.
In South Carolina, there are currently 4,000 children and youth in foster care. It takes a village to care for children and youth who have experienced immense trauma in their short lives.
That village is made up of agencies and organizations who recruit, train and support foster families, manage homes for children and teens, manage psychiatric residential treatment homes for kids who have seen extreme trauma and work to find and support adoptive families.
This village is supported by the Palmetto Association for Children & Families (PAFCAF). Our association provides education, support and leadership that strengthens the capacity of these agencies to produce positive outcomes for South Carolina children and their families. We believe that one size does not fit all – every child is different and has diverse needs. This is why we need all types of homes and treatment options in South Carolina.
Beyond the laws, beyond the state systems, there are faces, thousands of faces of children and teens who have been abused, neglected and abandoned. PAFCAF members see these faces every day, know their stories and strive to provide the best care possible. Many of these agencies have programs that are ingrained in their communities, well supported for decades by generations of South Carolinians.
These community agencies provide housing, food, mental health treatment, tutoring, after-school activities. But they also provide so much more. They celebrate birthdays with our state’s foster children. They rejoice over good report cards and high school graduations. They help teens get ready for prom and make sure someone is present for Grandparents’ Day or that cookies are delivered for class parties. For many, our agencies’ staff members represent the one caring adult in the eyes of children who walk through their doors.
This month, April, is Child Abuse Prevention Month, the nationally designated month to acknowledge the importance of communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. In South Carolina, these efforts are led by Children’s Trust. Together, our work builds safeguards in communities that will keep children free from harm and give them the opportunity to thrive and enjoy healthy, nurtured lives.
More information about the agencies serving your community can be found at pafcaf.org. Find out how you and your family, your church and your employer can help. What will you do this month that is #Good4SCKids?
Erin Galloway Hall is CEO of the Palmetto Association for Children and Families (PAFCAF). Hall previously served as Executive Director of Palmetto Place in Columbia, South Carolina. PAFCAF advocates on behalf of the diverse agencies who serve children and families in South Carolina.