Collaboration With Child Welfare
In the event that a child is removed from the custodial mother's care, a non-custodial father is often overlooked as a resource for alternative placement for the child. Upon hearing that his child was no longer with the mother, fathers have often contacted the Department of Social Services to inquire about the child's whereabouts only to be told that he had no right to the information. Too often the assumption is made that if the father is not around that he does not care about the child. However, this assumption is not always true. While non-custodial fathers may not always be in the best position to assume the care of their children in their own homes, tapping the fathers' extended family exponentially increases options for placement with a relative versus foster care, a group home or non-family member. And with the supportive services of a local fatherhood program, the father may well become the best provider for his child.
With children being place in foster care in South Carolina at unprecedented rates and fathers anxious to know the status of their children, the Center for Fathers and Families and SC Department of Social Services teamed up to ensure that children have safe, stable homes and that non-custodial parents are engaged in ensuring their children's well-being. As a result of the Center's advocacy for the inclusion of non-custodial fathers in the initial stages of a Child Protective Services investigation, DSS and the Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a collaborative relationship to enhance services for families involved in the child welfare system. In the MOU the Center and DSS agreed to create a written protocol for including fathers early in DSS investigations and to create "father friendly" training for CPS caseworkers. The Memorandum of Understanding also establishes a pilot project with the Upstate Fatherhood Coalition and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition Lexington site enabling all partners to work hand-in-hand to provide additional supportive services, where possible, to non-custodial fathers being considered for placement if their child is being removed from the custodial parent's care. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of children entering foster care annually by increasing the active involvement of non-custodial fathers.
The improved protocols and initial father-friendly training was completed in 2011; and, the pilot project in the Upstate is underway. The partners continue to collaborate on additional training and evaluation of the pilot project.