Kinship care refers to a temporary or permanent informal or formal arrangements in which a relative (such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle) or non-related adult (also known as fictive kin) who has assumed the full time care of a child whose parents are unable to do so. These kinship caregivers often times already have a close relationship or bond with the child they are caring for. Research shows that kinship care can help children maintain familial and community bonds, increase placement stability and maintain a sense of identity, culture and belonging during times of crisis. Kinship care can also help reduce trauma associated with separation and keep siblings together.

There are four main types of kinship care:

  • Formal Public
  • Informal Public
  • Formal Private
  • Informal Private

Private kinship care is an arrangement in which extended family members raise children without the involvement of child protective services. Private kinship care can be formal (where a caregiver has court or other legal documentation) or informal (where a caregiver does not).

Public kinship care describes situations in which families care for children involved with the child welfare system. Public formal kinship care describes the subset of child welfare-involved children who are placed with relatives through formal, court-involved child welfare proceedings. Public informal kinship care describes the subset of child-welfare involved children who are placed outside of court proceedings. One example of public informal kinship care placements would be non-court ordered safety placements.

Eligibility for Public Benefits

When taking on the care of another child into your home, you will be mostly responsible for food, clothing, shoes, household expenses and other supplies needed by the child.

You may be eligible for financial support for your care of this child. The Department of Social Services Economic Services staff can determine if you are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. You must be able to prove a biological relationship to the child in order to qualify for certain benefits.

Depending on your income, you may qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. The child may qualify for (or already get) Medicaid through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

A caseworker may assist with the application for any of the above. An application for benefits on behalf of the child can generate a referral to the Department of Social Services Child Support Enforcement.

Legal Options and Documentation

You can enroll a child in school if you have a court order giving you custody of that child or if you file a notarized education affidavit with the school. 

To get a court order giving you custody of the child, you may petition the court for custody of a child, to terminate the parents’ rights and adopt the child, or for guardianship of the child, depending on the facts of your case. An attorney can advise you as to which of these is right for your case.

Resources and Further Information

An overview of kinship care through DSS in South Carolina
An overview of economic services (SNAP, TANF, etc.) through DSS
An overview of kinship care resources from Sisters of Charity Foundation
The SC Education Affidavit