Originally created 06/02/04

Agency searches for foster parents



AIKEN - Aiken County social workers are looking for foster parents with even temperaments and the patience of Job to take in the state's most troubled children.

In a shift aimed at saving money in the face of a budget crisis and closer case supervision, the state's Department of Social Services is trying its hand at recruiting foster families for children with severe behavioral and emotional disorders, a population that makes up a quarter of all children in foster care.

In the past, DSS has relied on third-party private contractors such as the Mentor Network and Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth.

But state officials say by doing their own recruiting, DSS social workers not only save the state money but also don't have to work through a third party to keep tabs on how troubled children are faring in the system.

"We've known these children since they came into the state's care," said Kim Gilchrist, Aiken County's specialized foster home services supervisor. "The workers would be closer to the child and could provide better case management."

Officials would like to see as many as 60 families sign up for 32 hours of intensive training. Those who passed the state's screening and agreed to take in managed treatment children would be eligible for state and federal compensation above the rate provided to "normal" foster parents.

There are 172 children with severe behavioral and emotional disorders in Region III, which includes Aiken, Barnwell, Bamberg, Orangeburg, Dorchester and Calhoun counties. Of those, 56 are from Aiken County.

Cynthia Gilliard, Children's Services Supervisor for Region III, says while all potential foster parents are welcome, the office most needs white families and those willing to take in teens.

Private agencies that provide the bulk of placement for the state's managed treatment children don't agree with the move.

"My stand is that we specialize in placement," said Dianne Paul, the vice president of treatment service for Specialized Alternatives for Family and Youth of South Carolina. "We see ourselves as satisfying the needs of agencies like (DSS)."

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or stephen.gurr@augustachronicle.com.

Families Needed

Anyone interested in becoming a managed treatment foster parent for the state is encouraged to call (877) 366-6508.