OPINION: Foster children are living in our 'blind spot'


We are living in a time when Americans are opening their eyes to blind spots in society. Spots where disadvantage is the norm and opportunities for success are few and far between. For many of us, we unintentionally live our lives at full speed without noticing those around us who live in different circumstances. This year has become a time for us all to slow down, reflect and do better in loving one another.

At the South Carolina Youth Advocate Program, we want to turn your eyes upon a group of children among us who need our attention. In the United States, approximately one percent of children ages 0-18 are determined to have been abused or neglected each year, and about one half of those children are in foster care at any given moment.

Currently, there are nearly 4,800 children in foster care in South Carolina. These children are often not thought of by most of us on any given day. However, these forgotten children are among us every day, in our communities, in our schools, in our churches. SCYAP has focused on caring for these children for over 30 years, and we need your help to make a difference for the next generation.

Foster care is a critical need in South Carolina. Outside of the children and families involved, our child welfare workers, law enforcement, teachers, mental health professionals and others see these children every day and do their best to make a difference. However, the most valuable people during this difficult time in a child's life are the foster parents. To give the gift of a family to a child who cannot be with his or her biological family is a gift of true love. At SCYAP, our foster parents are the heart and soul of our mission.

Unfortunately, there are not enough foster homes in our state to care for all the children who need a family, particularly those with some type of special need. While we have licensed, trained and provide daily support to more than 500 foster homes statewide, it is heartbreaking when we have to turn away children who need a home. We need more foster parents to invest in the life of a child in need.

Will you allow us to open your eyes a little wider, open your home and let a child open your heart to new possibilities this year? You could be that one person who makes all the difference in the life of a child.

The South Carolina Youth Advocate Program, established in 1990, is a private not-for-profit organization. Our state office is located in Columbia, and we have regional offices located in Columbia, Charleston, Florence, Greenville and Myrtle Beach. We implement our mission through statewide programs that provide an array of community-based treatment programs to children and youth by way of focused and specialized services and programs. Our primary service is Therapeutic Foster Care.

All of our children have some degree of emotional and/or behavioral problems, most have been physically abused and/or severely neglected, and many have physical, mental and/or developmental challenges.

SCYAP believes every child has the right to a permanent home and family and that the family and community are invaluable resources in the positive growth and development of each youth.

We believe a home should be a safe and nurturing environment where each child can grow to his or her fullest potential. SCYAP provides support to our foster families through a variety of means including: 24 hours/day crisis response, guidance and support from foster care professionals, competitive daily pay based on the needs of the child and pre-service and on-going training for all foster families. For more information, please visit www.scyap.com or call (803) 779-5500.