SC Department of Social Services continues to find homes amid pandemic, nearly 700 Pee Dee children in need of foster homes

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Many foster families in the Pee Dee have risen to the challenge of taking children in amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy for foster children is currently one of the main goals at the State Department of Social Services.

During the initial outbreak, the adoption and foster care process was delayed since many courts and needed services were closed.

In the height of the pandemic, adoption and foster care has looked different, but the outcome remains the same.

Prayers are quickly being answered through technology. DSS program coordinator, Kaci Wingate, thanks Zoom and Facetime for making adoption possible for children in need.

“We can not let these children [linger] in our system,” Wingate said. “We’ve got to continue moving. So, we just all pulled together [and] came up with some ideas and technology based solutions have worked out really great for us.”

There are nearly 700 children in need of a home, even if temporarily, in the Pee Dee region. Both foster families and children are screened before the transition process is finalized.

Wingate told News13 that only a few families in the region are holding off on adoption and foster care until the pandemic settles.

According to reports, there’s been a noticeable decrease of kids entering foster care even before the coronavirus closed school doors. Officials don’t believe this to be a good thing.

With the pandemic keeping families mostly inside, it’s less likely to notice if a child is in danger. Teachers play a key role in reporting abuse and neglect. It’s common to see more children in foster care during the traditional academic school year.

Children in foster care by month in Horry County. Data from SCDSS.

With parents having the option of virtual learning this fall, Wingate is concerned for kids’ safety.

“You know, sometimes school is a safe place for them,” she said. “Teachers are the front line for abuse and neglect. You know without them going back to school, depending on how that turns out, I can see some concern there too about not having as many eyes on their children.”

Wingate says the community has a responsibility to be aware of at-risk children in their area. She encourages families to open their homes to foster children and report signs of abuse or neglect.

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