Kinship Care

When children must leave birth parents and live with relatives, it’s called kinship care.

Kinship care is, many times, the very best alternative for children.  Even though it’s a change for everyone in the family, it’s an opportunity for the child to stay with family members who share the same roots.

Sometimes these family bonds can be a source of strength, and sometimes these bonds can cause hardship, but these can be overcome. Many times families are stronger on the other side of hardship.

It’s important to remember that in all situations, these roots are important to children- they are a connection to who the children are.

This website provides resources and training to help with common challenges that kinship caregivers face when they begin to parent the children of a relative.


What is kinship care?

Kinship care refers to a temporary or permanent informal arrangement in which a relative or non-related adult (also known as fictive kin) has assumed the full time care of a child whose parents are unable to do so. These kin caregivers may already have a close relationship or bond with the child or family.

Who are kinship caregivers?

Kinship caregivers are one of South Carolina’s greatest resources. They are grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, family friends, godparents, and other people who have a meaningful connection to the child that they are now caring for because the child cannot live with his/her parents. Kinship caregivers who care for children receiving Child Protective Services have met certain requirements set forth by DSS, such as safety checks of the home.

Who Can Become a Licensed Kinship Foster Parent?

Who can become a licensed Kinship Foster parent?
For the purposes of Kinship Foster Care, the child must be in legal custody of the Department of Social Services and only a relative who is related through blood, marriage, or adoption can become a Kinship Foster parent.

Licensing Requirements:
If you are interested in becoming licensed, please contact the Regional Kinship Coordinator in your region to begin the application process.

What are the benefits of becoming licensed?
A child who has been removed by the family court can be placed in the home of a caregiver with whom the child is familiar, minimizing the impact of being removed from a biological parent. Additionally, licensed kinship caregivers receive the benefits and services that unrelated licensed foster parents receive, including training, case management and support, and foster care board payments to support the child.

Financial Resources

Bringing children into a family means extra expenses. Here are some resources for financial help.


Once a relative child has come to live with you, you can apply for TANF benefits for that child - Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

The child can be considered a family of one within the kin or relative caregiver’s family. Because this child has little or no income, the child may be eligible for TANF benefits.

For the child to qualify for TANF, the caregiver must be a blood relative to the child.

The caregiver must show how the child or children are related to the caregiver. The caregiver does not have to have legal guardianship, but must be able to verify the relationship to the child or children.

Some examples of acceptable verification are:

  • birth certificates
  • school records
  • paternity statements
  • marriage certificates
  • divorce papers
  • census records
  • insurance records
  • and court action which provides relationship information.

Apply For TANF

Child Support

Child support may be pursued by a relative or non-relative caregiver for a child up to age 18. If you receive TANF or if the child in your care receives child-only TANF, a child support application is automatically made. Here is more information for families.

Child Care

The SC Voucher Program provides partial financial assistance to eligible families to help them pay for child care so that caregivers can work:


Children in Kinship Care may be eligible for health insurance through Medicaid.

Children who are in legal custody of DSS and in a licensed or unlicensed relative placement are eligible for Medicaid.

Apply Online

The Benefit Bank

If you are a kinship caregiver and NOT involved with SCDSS, SC Thrive may be able to help you apply for benefits through the Benefit Bank.

Check out the SC Thrive website to see available resources and other helpful information- then call 1-800-726-8775 to speak with a Benefit Bank counselor. Below are some of the key services offered by SC Thrive:

  • Medicaid: Youth who were in foster care at age 18 should already be enrolled in Medicaid and can stay on Medicaid until 26. 
If you left care before 18 and are without health insurance, check out Healthy Connections Medicaid to learn more about this low-cost healthcare coverage.
  • Welvista is a SC Thrive partner that provides prescription medicine to eligible individuals without insurance. Click here to learn more.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP (known as Food Stamps) is a federal program that helps with the cost of groceries. Click here to learn more.
  • South Carolina State and Federal Taxes: Use the Self-Serve option or find a SC Thrive Tax Site near you for counselor help with filing your taxes.Click here to learn more.

SC Thrive also offers information and help for:

  • Voter Registration
  • Completing the FAFSA application for student loans for college
  • Military & Veterans Benefits
  • Social Security Income (SSI) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Family Independence (FI)

Be sure to check out the SC Thrive website today!

Food Assistance Resources

Harvest Hope Food Bank

About Harvest Hope


For help with food costs, a family can apply to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. SNAP benefits were once known as food stamps.

In kinship care, eligibility is based on the income of the entire household.

Kinship care providers can apply for these benefits at their local county DSS office or online here.


If the relative you’re caring for is pregnant, recently pregnant, or a newborn to five-year old child, you may be eligible for WIC. WIC is a nutrition program that provides health education, healthy foods, and other support. It is free to SC families who qualify.

WIC Prescreening Tool

WIC Income Guidelines

Call for an appointment 1-855-472-3432

Emotional Support Resources

Family Corps

About Harvest Hope


FamilyCorps works in communities across SC to support and connect caregivers and children to resources. Services include free, weekly peer support groups for caregivers where they can discuss the challenges they face. Families find support and education and training through FamilyCorps.
843-747-0480 or 1-800-326-8621

HALOS Kinship Navigator and Support Groups (Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester)

Elizabeth McGuan, LISW-CP

Kindred Hearts of South Carolina

Phone: (803) 553.7277

Richland County Library Social Workers

1431 Assembly Street (located on the 2nd floor)
Columbia, SC 29201
Office Hours: Monday-Thursday 9am-4pm

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA is an organization that targets resources for individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Treatment Locations and Suicide Hotline

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.


Local resources that provide AA meetings

SC Alcoholics Anonymous (Al-Anon)- support group for those affected by alcoholism

Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.


Trauma Therapy

A special type of therapy may be needed if a child has experienced trauma. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TFCBT) has been shown to work to help those who have suffered trauma.

Click here to learn more about trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

Find a trained trauma therapist in South Carolina.

Therapists are also available at community mental health centers. Department of Mental Health Community Mental Health Centers

Grief & Loss

When young children are separated from parents, they have sadness, but it may come out as a temper tantrum rather than what you recognize as grief. You can benefit from family therapy. A therapist can even spend time with you in your home and help you figure out what to do.


When children have been in several homes before coming to yours, there may be a brief honeymoon period. The children will try to be perfect to make sure you’ll love them. But soon, other feelings will come to the surface—sadness, hurt, or anger.

Children may break your rules, either on purpose or without being aware. They may steal, lie, or act out physically or sexually. They may be thinking, “I’m going to leave here anyway, so I don’t want to get too close.” Or they may feel “families don’t last. I’m mad about that.”

It can help you to consider the reasons behind bad behavior. You will need to help children trust you and be confident that you will not abandon them.

Separation Anxiety is a real thing. To learn more, click here to listen to some podcasts.

Education Resources

First Steps

First Steps is an early childhood agency. It’s focused on getting children ready for school and life success.

First Steps has a presence in every county.


FamilyCorps works in communities across SC to support caregivers and children connect to resources. Services include free, weekly peer support groups for caregivers where they can discuss the challenges they face. Families find support and education and training through FamilyCorps.
843-747-0480 or 1-800-326-8621

Additional Resources

HALOS Kinship Navigator and Support Groups (Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester)

Elizabeth McGuan, LISW-CP

Richland County Library Social Workers

1431 Assembly Street (located on the 2nd floor)
Columbia, SC 29201
Office Hours: Monday-Thursday 9am-4pm

Sisters of Charity Resource Guide

Link (PDF)

South Carolina’s Information Highway (SCIWAY)

SCIWAY is a one-stop web link that provides information and links on various categories for the state of South Carolina

Home Page
Youth Health
SC Jobs SC Businesses Summer Camps


211 is a website supported by the United Way that can direct you to resources in your local area. These resources include:

  • Food
  • Housing and utility
  • Education
  • Clothing
  • Mental health and addiction services
  • And more

By calling one toll free phone number--211—you can talk to someone about all the types of help you can find in your community. 211 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with both Spanish and English speaking operators. You can also visit the 211 website.

Grandfamilies is supported by a broad coalition of social service groups. The state fact sheets contain many resources that can help and support kinship caregivers. State Fact Sheets

Resources for parents ages 55 years and older

Looking for someone who can answer your questions and help you navigate your role as a kinship caregiver?

DSS has Kinship Care Coordinators to help. Kinship care coordinators can help you navigate and advocate for you and the children in your care They can provide you with information about local resources that will support you and help your children thrive and deal with issues that may arise.

Each DSS region has a Kinship Care Coordinator available to assist you.

  • Upstate Region: 888-839-0155
  • Midlands Region: 888-839-0159
  • Pee Dee Region: 888-854-4317
  • Low Country Region: 888-854-4277



Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.