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Gov. Henry McMaster Signs Legislation to Expand Kinship Care

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster today was joined by South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Michael Leach and members of the General Assembly for a ceremonial bill signing of S. 222, a bill that allows DSS to place a child with a relative or fictive kin who is not yet licensed as a foster parent, and allows for them to receive financial assistance from DSS while in the process of becoming licensed. 

The bill defines fictive kin as an individual who is not related by birth, adoption, or marriage to a child but who has an emotionally significant relationship with the child or the child’s family. 

"Today we further strengthen our foster care system by cutting red tape and providing our children increased stability in the care of people they already know," said Governor Henry McMaster. "It is legislation like this that makes a true impact on the lives of our children." 

Governor McMaster included funding in his FY 2022-23 executive budget to support the expansion of kinship care to include fictive kin.

"Research confirms that children do best in kinship foster care and that family connections are critical to healthy child development, minimizing trauma, and strengthening a sense of belonging," said DSS Director Michael Leach. "Kinship care also helps preserve children’s cultural identity and relationship to their community."

Expanding kinship care is a top priority of DSS. Currently, 22% of children in DSS custody are in licensed kinship foster placements. An increase from 6% when Director Leach first came to the agency in April 2019. 

"This legislation represents a step forward in acknowledging the sacrifices that kinship caregivers make when they step in to raise children who are not their own, and in removing the obstacles that keep them from providing the best possible care," said HALOS Executive Director Kim Clifton. "We appreciate Governor McMaster's commitment, along with that of SCDSS Director Michael Leach, to address the needs of children in kinship care, which now represents a significant portion of the state's population of children." 

South Carolina joins 28 other states with similar legislation.