mcknightThe South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) has implemented a new direction with foster parenting. DSS’ recruitment efforts include retaining current resource family homes and increasing the number of homes throughout the state. DSS is also striving to recruit families who are willing to assist both children and birth families. The Center is collaborating with DSS to help the agency reach its goals.

Recruiting resource parents begins with retention. To do this, DSS has created the Regional Resource Family Support Unit. According to Beth Mullins, Director of the Support Units, “These units will play a critical role in ensuring resource families have the tools and knowledge they need to make the foster care experience the best it can be for their own family, and especially for the children that they will care for in their homes.” The Center and DSS have developed the Supporting Resource Families training to explain the role of the support units and the many ways they can offer assistance and reassurance to resource families.

Along with the Supporting Resource Families training, the Center and DSS have developed the Shared Parenting training to reflect the shift in resource family recruitment. As Beth Mullins explains, “We are being more intentional in our recruitment. That means we are recruiting resource families who better serve the children’s needs: geographically, socially, and therapeutically.”

The Shared Parenting training further emphasizes a need for foster families to act as resources and to serve as a support to both the children in care and to the birth families. Carla Tunnell, a DSS Performance Coach and a trainer of Shared Parenting, explains the benefit of this training: “The Shared Parenting training can encourage everyone involved in a DSS foster care case to work as a team and to ultimately take part in the reunification process.”      

In addition to training, the Center has been instrumental in helping DSS create a unified recruitment campaign. According to Ginger Cassell, a Multimedia Developer with the Center’s Information Design team, “We are designing and producing all types of collateral materials to help DSS with its foster care recruitment efforts across the state.” These materials include flyers, brochures, postcards, displays, and a variety of promotional items like t-shirts, cups, and key chains.

DSS’ new approach to recruitment has a direct impact on the welfare of children in South Carolina. According to Deborah McKnight, a resource parent for thirty years who has parented over 100 children, becoming a resource parent can also affect more than just the children in care: “I think it's important for people to become foster parents to bring about a change. We're trying to bring about a change in ourselves and we want to bring a change in our society. If we can make a difference in that child’s life, then we can make a difference in the future.”