HORRY COUNTY S.C. (WBTW) — Extra support for kids who’ve aged out of the foster care system is on the way.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that extends foster care services until a youth turns 21.
As of May 1, South Carolina Department of Social Services is serving 164 youth through the state-run extended foster care program.
Youth voluntarily sign themselves back into care, and this new law will allow many more to do the same.
In South Carolina when a foster kid turns 18 they officially age out of the system.
“I immediately left after a desire to be on my own. I felt I was ready. I was proven wrong and needed emergency housing two months after I turned 18. Without Reaching out, I would have been homeless and would have been unable to provide food or any basic needs for myself,” said Sierra Burns, who’s in foster care.
Providing those basic needs, is what SCDSS is doing with its state-run program that helps foster youth transition into adulthood.
The new law allows SCDSS to pull from federal dollars instead of being 100% state-funded.
“We’re able to maximize the dollars available. We’re able to offer this program to more youth and maybe outreach some more youth that have aged out, as well as hiring more case managers, to help with that transition,” said Connelly-Anne Ragley, the SCDSS director of communications and external affairs.
SCDSS officials said case managers are key when it comes to guiding young adults into adulthood.
“They don’t have that connection to a caring adult that can help them navigate the new challenges of adulthood just when they turn 18,” Ragley said.
State Rep. Russell Fry (R-Surfside Beach) was the lead sponsor of this bill.
“This is going to have a real lasting impact on the children of our state, and so I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m excited that we were able to push it across the finish line,” Fry said.
Currently, Horry County has 214 kids in the foster care system under the age of 17.
Ragley said it’s not too late for anyone to get help after they’ve aged out of the system.