For the child, the reliability and consistency you offer are important even though it may not seem like a big deal to you. But you may also feel challenged by the responsibilities of kinship care.
The role of SCDSS is to promote the safety and well-being of children. When we are involved in a formal kinship care placement, a case manager will make monthly visits to your home to check on children. You should feel free to share information, ask questions or ask for help.
In a formal kinship care arrangement, your case manager will give you information including:
- The services needed, available or required for the child
- Visitation plans and your role during parent and sibling visits
We’re eager to help all kinship care providers learn about services, supports, and resources. We’re providing a list of ways to get help here:
- Some are available to all families and children.
- Some are only available for children in formal and licensed kinship care.
- SCDSS- Kinship Care and Kinship Foster Care provide detailed information about agencies providing services. You can also get information from your case manager or Regional Kinship Care Coordinator to help you decide which benefits to apply for. For a quick reference guide to Kinship Care, download this printable booklet.
- SC Thrive - Can help kinship caregivers in many ways—including caregivers who are not involved with SCDSS and who are providing informal care.
- HALOS - For kinship caregivers in the Charleston area, available to those providing both formal and informal care. HALOS offers support groups, one-on-one help to caregivers, school supplies, summer camps, Christmas gifts, cribs and car seats.
- SC 211- Search for by topic or by zip code to find services near you. Includes services for adults and children and is not limited to kinship caregivers.
- Sisters of Charity - Funds kinship care programs and provides a resource guide you can view online or download, with answers to legal questions and help listed by county.
- Legal Aid Services - Provides information and referrals to lawyers. You can submit information and find out about legal services using their online form.
- Grandfamilies.org - Source of legal information for every state in the U.S., designed especially for grandparents providing kinship care.
- GetCareSC - Helps seniors and caregivers, with links and contact information for the state’s 10 regional Area Agencies on Aging.
- S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice - Provides programs and resource libraries for caregivers that include information on prevention, gangs and state law.
- Richland Library Social Workers - Social workers at the downtown Columbia branch help area residents get help with healthcare, housing, food and more—with a special program for kinship care.
Health Care Resources
All children need regular health and dental care. In some cases, children may need specialized care. The child’s primary care doctor may suggest a mental health evaluation or that a child should see a specialist. In these cases, the primary care doctor can help point you in the right direction and set up referrals. If counseling is recommended, you may be asked to attend the sessions. Contact your case manager, their supervisor or your regional Kinship Care Coordinator if you:
- Have a problem getting health care for the child
- Think there is a medical, dental or mental health need that is not being taken care of by the child’s primary care doctor
- See any changes in the child’s mood or behavior
Help Paying For Healthcare
- SC Healthy Connections Medicaid - Health insurance for children ages 0-12. Contact your local S.C. Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) office or visit www.scdhhs.gov for more information.
- Medicaid - Available to children 18 and under who are in SCDSS custody and placed with a kinship caregiver.
- Nurse Call Line - If using the First Choice Medicaid plan, you have access to this toll-free number 24 hours a day, to talk with a nurse and get advice: 1-800-304-5436.
- SC Thrive - Can help with additional Medicaid options and access to Welvista, which provides free prescription medication for eligible people without health insurance.
- Family Connection South Carolina - Provides support for children with asthma and help affording care for children with special needs.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse
You can find advice and connect to services for the children in your care and find counseling and emotional support for yourself through these organizations.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Resources for individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders. Includes toll-free helplines for drug treatment and suicide prevention: 1-800-662-HELP.
- S.C. Department of Mental Health - Can connect you to clinics and services using your zip code to search for those nearest you.
- Al-Anon of South Carolina - Hosts programs for relatives and friends of alcoholics, including youth, where they can share experiences and get support in a welcoming, confidential environment.
Keeping the child in the same school is better for children because it cuts down on the changes to their daily routine. If a child must change schools, the kinship caregiver and case manager will work together to enroll the child in the nearest school that meets their needs. You are a valuable resource for information about how the child is doing with classwork, how well they seem to be getting along with others, what behavior problems they may have and what might help meet their educational needs. Contact your case manager, their supervisor or your regional Kinship Care Coordinator for help if the child needs:
- Specific school-related items you can’t provide
- Special services such as tutoring, counseling or accommodations for physical or learning disabilities
Free 4-Year-Old KindergartenFirst Steps 4K – First Steps 4K gives families the opportunity to enroll their eligible child in a free four-year-old kindergarten program as part of the state’s Child Early Reading Development and Education Program (CERDEP). First Steps 4K partners with private, nonprofit, and faith-based preschool providers to increase participation in high-quality early education. Families enrolled in First Steps 4K will also qualify for First Steps 4K + Siblings, a partnership with DSS & SC Voucher.
Help Affording School Supplies
- HALOS - Provides school supplies to kinship care families in the Charleston area.
- SC 211 - Can help find local sources for free school supplies.
Help Working With Schools To Get Special Services
- Family Connection of South Carolina -Helps kinship caregivers work with schools to get services for children who have disabilities or special needs.
There are several ways you might be able to add money to your family budget so you can better afford to take care of an extra child.
Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
The Child-Only option for TANF can provide money to kinship caregiver households. It works like this:
- The child can be considered a family of one within your home.
- Since that child has little or no income, they may be eligible for TANF money.
- You will have to show how the child is related to you, using verification like a birth certificate, paternity statement, school records, marriage or divorce papers, insurance records, census records or court action that includes relationship information.
You can apply for TANF child-only at your local SCDSS office or online. SC Thrive can also help you apply for TANF.
Parents are required to provide financial support, even when children are living with a kinship caregiver. You can ask SCDSS to help you get child support. If you or the child you are caring for receive TANF, SCDSS will automatically file a child support application.
Foster Care Board Payments
If you’re a licensed kinship caregiver providing formal kinship care with SCDSS involvement, you can receive monthly board payments. This money must be used to pay for expenses that come with taking care of the child in kinship care.
Sometimes, kinship caregivers need financial help to feed new children in their household. If you’re not used to having a baby in the house, you may also need advice on what to feed that child.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -You may know SNAP by its old name, food stamps. SNAP is based on income and household size and helps individuals and families in need buy food. The child in kinship care can count as a household member even though you don’t have legal custody of them. Apply with your local SCDSS office or online. SC Thrive can also help with SNAP applications.
- WIC - Helps women, infants and young children. You might be eligible if the relative you are caring for is pregnant, recently gave birth or is a child under 5 years old. WIC provides healthy foods and other support free to those who qualify.
- SC 211 - Call 2-1-1 or search their website for local food banks and other food assistance programs.
Child Care Assistance
If you work, you may need to find child care for young children or afterschool care for older children. Here are resources that may be available:
Early Education and Child Care Support
- SC Child Care - Search online for child care providers near you at or call 1-800-476-0199 to talk to someone who can give you one-on-one help.
- Afterschool Care - Many public schools offer afterschool care. Talk with the school the child attends to learn more.
- First Steps 4K – First Steps 4K gives families the opportunity to enroll their eligible child in a free four-year-old kindergarten program as part of the state’s Child Early Reading Development and Education Program (CERDEP). First Steps 4K partners with private, nonprofit, and faith-based preschool providers to increase participation in high-quality early education. Families enrolled in First Steps 4K will also qualify for First Steps 4K + Siblings, a partnership with DSS & SC Voucher.
Help Paying For Child Care
- SC Voucher - SC Voucher helps families pay for child care so parents and relative caregivers can work. SC Voucher payments can cover 52 weeks or more for children living with relatives, if the child is receiving a Child-Only TANF benefit. A co-payment may be required. SC Voucher is also available to families with an open Child Protective Services (CPS) case.
- Head Start - Free program for young children that uses fun activities to develop educational and social skills. Children living with kinship caregivers may be eligible for Head Start.
For Children with Special Needs
Kinship caregivers may need extra help meeting the needs of children with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, learning difficulties or behavioral issues.
- Family Connection South Carolina - Can help with every aspect of caring for a child with a disability or special health care need, including affording health care and working with schools. Options also include programs for asthma and autism, plus support groups and one-on-one guidance for caregivers.
- BabyNet - For infants and toddlers under 3 years of age. Assesses for developmental delays and matches caregivers with early intervention services. If the child is involved with SCDSS, they must be referred for BabyNet services.