South Carolina to Boost Financial Assistance for Kinship Caregivers
South Carolina is launching a program that, come January 2024, will offer funding to caregivers who are parenting another family member’s child.
Licensed kinship caregivers whose guardianship role spans at least six months and stems from a signed family court judge’s order are eligible to apply for the program and receive monthly payments. Called South Carolina’s Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP), the program follows a policy already set in 40 other states.
Compensation for Kinship Caregivers
Nationally, more than 2.5 million children are in kinship care arrangements. Yet, many kinship caregivers — especially grandparents and older relatives living on fixed incomes — find the added costs of guardianship challenging. Financial instability and uncertainty can even prevent them from committing to a long-term or permanent parenting role.
Against this backdrop, KinGAP — with its promise of added financial support for South Carolina’s kin caregivers — “could play a vital role in ensuring more children and youth can remain in the care of relatives when they cannot stay with their parents,” says Meha Desai, a senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) officials expect KinGAP to provide much-needed financial support and stability for about 250 caregivers who want to continue providing homes for children and youth in foster care.
For several years, the Casey Foundation has provided help and resources to help South Carolina’s DSS, young leaders and community-based advocates collaborate on improving policies, practices and programs to better serve children and families. Increasing equitable support for kinship caregivers has been a major goal of this work in addition to strengthening families to keep them together and developing alternatives to placing children in group care.
Many state and local groups advocated for KinGAP in South Carolina, which Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law in May 2023, including:
- Children’s Trust of South Carolina;
- Richland County CASA;
- Pendleton Place;
- Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children; and
- Sisters of Charity Foundation.
The Importance of Kinship Caregivers
Today in South Carolina, more than 25% of kids in foster care are placed in licensed kinship care settings, and this trend is — by design — on the rise, according to Michael Leach, who directs the state’s DSS.
Kinship caregivers can “provide familiarity and comfort when it’s needed most,” says Leach, who defines his agency’s orientation as a “kin-first mindset.”
“Research shows that kinship placements offer young people an important sense of belonging and stability as they maintain connections to their community and with their family members,” adds Desai.