BEAUFORT COUNTY IS LOOKING FOR FOSTER PARENTS TO CARE FOR CHILDREN IN NEED.
When Christina Wilson heard that her cousin’s children had been put in foster care in 2003, she and her husband, Jason, knew they had to do something.
The Beaufort couple became licensed foster parents and took in the 5-month-old and 17-month-old girls. Two years later, the Wilsons adopted the children.
A few years after the adoption, the Wilsons found out that Christina’s cousin had given birth to two more children, who also ended up in foster care. The family immediately began making phone calls, trying to get custody of her daughters’ younger siblings, who were in Florida at the time.
The Wilsons went through the process to become licensed foster parents again. After a long court battle, the children were returned to their mother. After they ended up in the foster system again, the Wilsons were finally able to bring them to Beaufort in 2009. In 2014, the Wilsons officially adopted the two younger children.
Christina’s experience with the foster care system inspired her to fight for other children as well. She went back to school and earned her master’s degree in public administration.
“I’d already learned how to navigate the system,” she said. “I just figured I would continue that work.”
Now the executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association, Christina is working to recruit other foster families, who are desperately needed in Beaufort County.
Although the number of children in foster care changes frequently, as of Nov. 1, there were 57 foster children in Beaufort County, according to Chrysti Shain, a public information officer with the South Carolina Department of Social Services. To care for them, Shain said DSS needs at least 30 more foster homes.
The shortage of foster homes in Beaufort County means that local children are being moved to available foster homes outside of the county. This can make the process much more traumatic for children; in addition to being taken away from their parents, they are leaving behind their hometowns, schools and friends.
As of Nov. 1, about 70 percent of Beaufort County’s foster children were living in foster homes outside of the county, Shain said.
Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the United Way of the Lowcountry, CAPA launched a Resource Family Program in November and is now a licensed child-placing agency, meaning it can recruit, train and support area foster families.
CAPA has run a local children’s home since 1985, but there is only enough room for 15 children a night, Christina said. Building a larger home could take two or three years.
“These kids without a bed can’t wait three years,” Christina said.
The Wilsons know being a foster parent isn’t always easy, but say the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
“This will be the hardest, best work you’ll ever do,” Christina said. “Some days are harder than others, but in the end, none of these children asked for these things to happen to them. Fostering is helping a child heal from the inside out. If you have a willing heart and loving home, you can do this work too.”
BECOME A FOSTER PARENT
Licensed foster parents in Beaufort County are required to take a series of classes, pass a home study and undergo a background check. The Child Abuse Prevention Association will offer classes on a rotating basis every month. To cover the costs of caring for foster children, foster families are given a stipend ranging from $383 to $589 per child per month. For more information, go to www.capabeaufort.org/foster.