November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and in Horry County a group of foster and adoptive parents have started a new mentoring program to help people through the foster process.
It’s called G.E.M. and stands for Guide, Encourage, Mentor, which is exactly what the group does to people who are interested in or in the early stages of foster care.
The county is in desperate need of more foster care homes. It’s a story we’ve brought you before; officials say the county’s growing population and increased drug use are behind the spike in the number of children in foster care.
According to DSS, there are around 300 children in foster care in Horry County and only about half as many available foster parents.
Brenda Major created G.E.M. and has been fostering for five years and has two adopted daughters.
Katie came into their lives the day after her first birthday. “She was very scared, afraid of men, introverted, wouldn’t talk, wasn’t walking at a year old,” Brenda said. “She’s come a long way, she’s very outgoing now, loves her daddy and is an integral part of our family.”
Brenda founded G.E.M. about six months ago and said close to 50 people have already come through the program.
“We walk them through it, mentor them through the process, help them when they get their first placement, be their liaison between DSS and others,” she explained.
“As far as I know, Horry County’s the only one that operates anything similar,” April Rabon Owens, a placement supervisor for South Carolina DSS, said. “I know that’s true for our region at least.”
There are a number of reasons why potential foster families hesitate when making the decision to apply, and one of them is people feeling like the process is confusing or difficult.
“They’re with them every step of the way,” Owens said. “Whether that be something as simple as helping them prepare for their fire inspection, and also helping them get bunk beds. Just a bunch of different things.”
Brenda said people always tell her they can’t foster because it would hurt too much to give the kids back. She said it’s not easy for anyone.
“We’re not any different, it hurts us just as much. But it’s not about us, it’s about these kids.”
There are a number of reasons why potential foster families hesitate when making the decision to apply… And one of them is people feeling like the process is confusing or difficult.
Gem walks people through it… Helping them with their paperwork and inspections and acting as a liaison between d-s-s and other placement services.
The program is new.. It was started about six months ago and close to 50 people have already come through it.
April rabon owens/south carolina dss placement supervisor “It’s a great resource to help keep the retention of foster families because they have a realistic expectation of what’s to come and so they have someone to go to when things don’t always go great which is bound to happen. But it’s definitely worth it.”
The family who started gem just adopted their second child yesterday… I was there and spoke to them at the courthouse right before their final adoption hearing.
You’ll hear their story and more about how gem is helping people in horry county later at 6.