Dear Governor McMaster:
Lutheran Services Carolinas is a faith-based nonprofit ministry with a long history of providing child and family services across South Carolina, including foster care, veterans services, refugee resettlement, services for survivors of human trafficking, and supported housing. We are excited to be starting an addiction recovery program in Greenwood.
In 2017, in recognition of recurring humanitarian crises at the southern border, we began providing transitional foster care for unaccompanied children in the Columbia area. We are proud of the compassionate work we have done in this area for the past four years.
We are equally proud to serve approximately 140 native South Carolinians every year through our traditional foster care program. South Carolinians who choose to foster unaccompanied migrant children do so for a variety of reasons, from having a particular passion for serving the Hispanic population to being drawn to the relatively short-term nature of their commitment, as the migrant children they foster will likely be in their care for days, weeks or several months, not, potentially, years, as might be the case in a traditional foster care program.
We are very concerned about the negative impact of the executive order preventing the federal government from placing unaccompanied migrant children in South Carolina foster care and group homes.
We respectfully disagree that programs like ours take away from DSS foster care or are a drain on South Carolina resources. Of the 133 unaccompanied children our program has served since 2017, none has ended up in South Carolina DSS care after their release to a family member or sponsor, and in fact, the majority have not been released to a family member or sponsor in South Carolina. The children in our program do not use South Carolina resources, as they have their own federally funded medical insurance and do not attend public school. Any child who is unable to be released to a family member or sponsor will be moved out of state to a federally funded foster care program.
We are saddened that responding to a humanitarian crisis seems to have become politicized. Our program serving unaccompanied children is, for our faith-based organization, a perfect example of The Good Samaritan in action. The strong support throughout the state that we have had for this ministry would suggest that many South Carolinians appreciate our efforts to help these children, many of whom have been through unspeakable trauma.
Lutheran Services Carolinas has operated this small, specialized program without problem or concern since 2017. I would respectfully encourage you to pause implementation of this ban to gather more information on this complex issue. We would be happy to meet with you or your staff to share more details on this program that serves some of the most vulnerable among us.
Please contact me at 704-798-1069 or at tgoins@LSCarolinas.net, if we can discuss this further.
Yours in Christ,
Ted Goins, president and CEO of Lutheran Services Carolinas