Crosswell Home for Children partners with CarePortal to bring hope and practical needs to families in crisis


Imagine a community where families in need are seamlessly connected with the resources that can transform their lives, potentially preventing children from entering foster care. In Sumter, this vision is becoming a reality, thanks to the efforts of a home for children. By uniting local churches and groups, this organization is making a tangible difference in the lives of families, offering them a helping hand when they need it most.

The foster care crisis

Jessica Kaneft, who works with programs, support and development at Crosswell Home for Children in Sumter, said every child deserves to remain in a healthy, loving family.

According to the CarePortal website, each year, government child protection agencies are alerted to more than 7 million children who have experienced maltreatment. Because of these reports, more than 400,000 children are being removed from their homes and placed in an overburdened foster care system. A report of child maltreatment is made every 10 seconds, 76% of children involved in the child welfare system have experienced neglect, and Black children make up 14% of the total child population but 23% of all kids in foster care. For comparison, white children make up 50% of the child population and 44% of kids in foster care. Fifty percent of the homeless, 60% of child sex trafficking victims and more than 75% of the prison population spent time in foster care.

Kaneft said the federal government spends more than $30 billion on foster care each year, but research shows that preventing foster care is not only more cost effective, but it also produces healthier outcomes.

That is where CarePortal comes into play here in Sumter.

The growing solution

CarePortal is a connecting technology that drives action for local children and families in crisis, according to its website. The organization was launched in 2015, working with child welfare agencies, schools, pregnancy centers, churches, businesses, volunteer organizations and more child-serving agencies. "CarePortal has done for child welfare what other tech platforms have successfully done to disrupt entire industries. Just as ridesharing and home-sharing services have unlocked value and connection in places where it didn't exist before, CarePortal enables 'care-sharing,' a method of collaboration empowering people to share the responsibility of caring for people in need," according to its website.

As of 2023, CarePortal operates in 32 states, and Kaneft hopes by the end of the summer, Sumter can bring South Carolina into the 33rd or 34th state spot.

Kaneft said CarePortal is harnessing the strength of community by facilitating a care-sharing network to address practical needs. For instance, the program can allow for a team to provide furniture for a single mother who has recently left an abusive relationship and is rebuilding her life. This initiative is not only strengthening families, but also supporting safe reunification, stabilizing temporary foster and kinship placements and expediting permanent solutions for children in need.

How CarePortal works

"It is an online platform that connects vulnerable neighbors with trained groups from churches in the community," Kaneft said. "The platform allows child-serving agencies - school counselors, pregnancy centers and case managers - to enter vetted needs."

CarePortal operates in a four-step process - identifying, vetting, inputting the need and alerting.

First a child or family is identified as needing help by a teacher, a case manager, a member of law enforcement or other child-serving agencies. Next is vetting, which ensures all requests are legitimate and helpful to the child and their family. After proper vetting, a trained member of the child-serving agency will input the need into the CarePortal system, including demographics and what is needed - beds, cribs, clothes, furniture, groceries, etc. Finally, churches within proximity to the request are alerted to the need. Churches that have enrolled in CarePortal and have gone through their training process are able to mobilize their teams to quickly respond to requests, according to Kaneft.

"Most of these requests that are entered are for material needs such as beds, cribs, car seats and more," she said. "The goal is to create a connection between a local church and at-risk and vulnerable families in the community with the intention of not only meeting their material needs, but also meeting their social and spiritual needs."

The need and training

According to Kaneft, more than 3,500 children and youth are in foster care in South Carolina. Sumter County needs 29 more foster homes to meet the needs of foster youth in the area, 15 of those for teens between age 13 and 17. As of 2022, Sumter alone had a child poverty rate of 27.6% - more than 1 in 4. South Carolina has a child poverty rate of 22% - more than 1 in 5. Statewide, there are more than 300,000 children living in poverty.

Training includes five modules of topics for CarePortal's foundational best practices for connection, understanding various types of poverty, recognizing trauma and providing safety, prioritizing dignity for caregivers, partnering well with agency workers and launching with a gospel-centered message and motive.

CarePortal is open to child-serving agencies, and Crosswell Home for Children has become part of that partnership to bring the program into the state. Kaneft said she hopes to see it up and running by the end of the summer, and there have already been churches and other child-serving agencies interested in joining.

Another service to rethink poverty

Kaneft said Crosswell Home for Children has a trained COPE, or Cost of Poverty Experience, facilitator.

In America, 37 million people, including 1 in 6 children, live at or below the poverty line, according to the COPE website.

"The Cost of Poverty Experience is a two-and-a-half-hour simulation that explores the lived experience of poverty firsthand through the eyes of real families," Kaneft explained.

It was "created with the input of individuals with personal experience of poverty, and COPE sheds light on these challenges and catalyze meaningful dialogue and action. Participants are challenged to rethink poverty, respond effectively and partner with those affected for change," according to the site.

Kaneft said COPE is a tool that will help a team by deepening their understanding of the realities of poverty in the country, improve practices and approaches to better engage low-income individuals and their families and build partnerships with the broader community to improve outcomes for low-income families.

For more information on CarePortal or to get involved, call Jessica Kaneft at (609) 635-6635 or visit