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South Carolina Department of Social Services

V. Susan Alford, State Director  

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What is the purpose of this service?

The primary purpose of Foster Care service is to provide a safe temporary placement for children who cannot remain safely in the home of their parent(s). The children are in the custody of the Department of Social Services by court order.

The goal of foster care is to implement a plan for permanency for each child. The plan is intended to last through the child/youth’s adulthood and with the child out of foster care, agency custody, and state oversight. If the child cannot be returned home to the parents, another permanent planned living arrangement is made. Permanency plans, with priority from the most to the least permanent by federal law are:

  • Reunification with parents;
  • Adoption (by a relative or non-relative),
  • Guardianship/custody (with a relative or non-relative),
  • Relative placement in foster care (with a relative who has a long term, secure commitment to the child)
  • Another planned permanent living arrangement in foster care.

Permanency plans are developed by conducting a comprehensive family assessment and providing services to enhance the capacity of parents to care for their children. Services that address the educational, mental and physical well-being of the children are provided or arranged for foster children.

Who can receive this service?

The Department provides foster care services to:

  • Children from birth to 18 years of age who are in the custody of the Department and who the court has determined cannot remain safely in their home
  • Parents whose children have been removed from the home.
  • Foster youth who are age 13 -21 through the Chafee Independent Living services which promote opportunities for youth to learn needed skills and increase the likelihood of successful transition from the foster care system.
  • Youth who emancipate from foster care after age 18 and who are eligible for After Care Services.

How are the services provided?

Foster care services are provided by 46 County Department of Social Services offices. Intensive foster care and clinical services are provided by regional offices. In addition to services by the Department of Social Services, services are provided to families by other public and private providers to address needs identified in a comprehensive family assessment and individualized case plan.

What services are offered?

Foster Care services include joint assessment and development of individual case plans by parents, children and DSS staff. DSS offers services to children to reduce the detrimental effects of abuse and neglect and to address needs related to their educational, mental and physical well-being.

Parents are offered services aimed at changing the behavior that caused the child to be unsafe in the home and which must be successfully changed for the child to be safely returned home and to end DSS services.

How do foster youth who emancipate after age 18 apply for After Care services?

Youth who emancipate after age 18 can contact the county DSS office in whatever county they are currently living and request Aftercare Services. Youth participate in an Aftercare assessment interview to help determine needed services.

Meet Patrick Plunkett, DSS’ First Carolina Life Scholarship Recipient Receives Certificate from USC

Foster Care Helpline

The number for the Foster Care Helpline is 1-800-645-9789. It was established to answer calls 24 hours a day from children and youth in foster care.

How can I help?

See the section on Foster Care Licensing for information on becoming a foster care provider.

More Information & Resources


  • To Report Child or Adult Abuse and Neglect call your local county office:
  • For information on SNAP benefits, contact DSS CONNECT at 1-800-616-1309 or any local DSS office during normal business hours.
  • To report Vendor/Retailer/DSS Employee Fraud
  • Report State Agency Fraud (Office of the Inspector General)