Charlie is 5 years old. He was born in the Upstate to a family in poverty, and with a history of alcoholism. Charlie came into foster care for neglect. When Charlie entered foster care, he was forced to leave everything he knew. As if his family and his home were not enough, Charlie had to leave his neighborhood playmates, his school, and his friends from school too. Charlie entered a seemingly foreign world. There were not any nearby resource foster families able to accept placement of Charlie. Charlie was moved to another county. The move was hard on Charlie, in so many ways; especially because nothing was the same.
Rachel and Rebecca are 2 years apart. Rachel is older and likes to remind Rebecca of that daily. Rebecca is 6 years old, and Rachel is protective of her. The girls adore each other. Their mother would often take out her drunken anger on Rachel. Rachel and Rebecca need each other for survival. They help each other make dinner. They play together and read books to hide from the screaming at home. When they came into foster care, everything changed. There were no homes willing and able to take two children, so Rachel went to live with one family and Rebecca went with another. It was devastating. The girls were angry and confused. Rachel and Rebecca didn’t understand if they did something wrong. Rachel cried: “Where is my sister?” But it had to be done. There was no choice. There was no family willing and able to take two.
Jacob is 3 years old. He hits and punches people. But how can you blame him? Before he came into foster care, he lived in an abusive household. His dad hit his mom when he was angry. Jacob feels very angry too. So he hits people. Jacob came into foster care recently. There were no homes that were able to take him and his behavior. So Jacob went to a group home with fourteen other children. Although the home is safe and people from the outside give him toys and presents, Jacob still feels angry. He feels like no one notices him. He recently started biting people. He needs the attention of others; which he can’t get. There are too many children. It’s not the same as having a mommy and daddy. But there was no family to take Jacob when he entered foster care.
What happened to Charlie, Rachel, Rebecca, and Jacob happens every day in the state of South Carolina. In the Upstate, there are approximately 1,200 children in foster care, and only 600 foster homes. When there aren’t enough foster homes, children get placed in other counties across the state when and if a home is available; many times there are not. Children are also placed in group homes and separated from their siblings. All of these outcomes are devastating to a child’s future.
When a child is placed in another county, visitation with their family and maintaining connections is very difficult. Children that are separated from their siblings often struggle with bonding and attachment, which is essential to their survival. The sibling relationship is often defined as the most important relationship to children who enter foster care, as it their only tie to their birth family and their past. Maintaining this connection is important to the child’s physical and mental health, as well as the child’s overall well-being. When a child is placed in a group home, they lack the undivided attention of a mom and dad.
There is a critical need for families to becoming foster parents across the Upstate. Children in foster care need you. They need your home, your time, your energy, your love, and your attention. If you are interested in starting the process or have questions about foster care, please visit www.miraclehill.org/foster-care.
(Names have been changed to protect the children’s identities)