The State of South Carolina is one of four jurisdictions nationwide chosen to participate in the first tier of a cutting-edge national program that aims to move child welfare systems from traditional, reactive child protection systems to advanced systems designed to support holistic child and family well-being while preventing child maltreatment and unnecessary family separation.

This first-of-its-kind partnership- Thriving Families, Safer Children: A National Commitment to Well-Being - is a program developed by the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Casey Family Programs, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Prevent Child Abuse America. Tenets of the new concept will seek involvement from stakeholders to work across the public, private and philanthropic sectors to help South Carolina create more just and equitable systems to break harmful multigenerational cycles of trauma and poverty to benefit all children and families.

“Having South Carolina chosen as one of the four demonstration sites in the entire country shows that SC DSS is making progress in serving our state’s children and families. There is no better time than right now to move our state from a reactive child welfare system to a system that enables greater, more fluid interagency coordination and collaboration in serving families,” said DSS State Director Michael Leach. “We want to create a system of robust community-based interventions and services available for all families, that takes into consideration social determinants of health. Families are one of our society’s greatest strengths and it’s time to change how the system thinks and serves children and families to create a structure that removes the stigma of seeking assistance and shifts towards a narrative that normalizes help, one that is accessible, and feels accessible, to all families regardless of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. There has been no better time than right now to make this fundamental shift.”

Thriving Families will partner with family-serving federal agencies, diverse non-profits and community stakeholders, including families with real life-experience with the system, to help develop the approaches, supports, resources and services to meet the unique needs of families while helping families thrive.

“As the state leader for the prevention of child abuse and neglect, we work to help families find the resources, skills and abilities to provide their children a happy, healthy and safe environment in which to grow up,” remarked Children’s Trust CEO Sue Williams. “We are excited to be partners in this project and look forward to working with a wide variety of community stakeholders to establish a child and family well-being system that delivers proven prevention programs in communities across our state.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need to overhaul the current system into a 21st century well-being system approach where families seeking help are viewed as showing strength and resiliency instead of stigmatized or portrayed negatively. This effort will provide resources and support from the four national partners as well as work with participants on the ground to meet needs of families directly.

“The Department of Children’s Advocacy supports access to a robust array of community-based services that provide what children and families need to be safe, healthy and resilient,” said Amanda Whittle, DCA Director and State Child Advocate. “Thriving Families provides continued momentum for South Carolina’s efforts to improve outcomes for children and families. Child welfare practitioners, parents, community partners, volunteers, and other caring and supportive adults can help transform South Carolina to a child and family wellbeing system that is grounded in urgency, empathy and sustainability with this new endeavor.”

Other areas, in addition to South Carolina, selected to participate in this first of three tiers of action include LA County/California, Colorado and Nebraska.

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