This month, state lawmakers are voting on some key bills that can help more families become foster parents and also give foster kids a better chance at living normal lives.
Right now in the Upstate there are more than 700 children who need a foster family. For South Carolina as a whole, that’s more like 1,600!
Tom and Carey Paudler have a full house, and even fuller hearts.
“We have the love to be able to give another teenager a home and our kids are on board with it,” said Tom Paudler.
The Paudlers bought a 12-passenger van with the hopes of also becoming fostering parents but state law prohibits that because they already have 5 children in their home.
“We learned that SC is number one in the nation for placing children ages 12 and under in group care and we realized that when we heard that we figured there’s something we could do,” said Carey Paulder.
So the Paulders connected with other parents across the state in the same situation and helped to draft the Max 5 bill. It raises the household limit to 8.
After a year in the making, it passed both the House and the Senate this week.
Another piece of legislation that’s working its way through the Senate right now is called the Normalcy Bill. Foster parents can’t sign their kids up for sports teams, take them across state lines, or even give them a haircut without DSS permission, but this bill would change that.
“So this bill is very child focused,” said the family’s lawyer Trey Ingram and a foster parent, “Right out of the gate we are saying children are entitled to have normal childhood…experiences.”
Trey Ingram helped shape the bill along with Dan Bracken, both foster parents who see a need for change.
“We tried to go to Florida last summer and we put in notice over a month in advance,” said Bracken, “We finally got approved 8 hours before we had to leave.”
That bill goes up for a vote next week. And if there is one thing these families have beyond love, it’s hope.
“People can make a difference, and make a change,” said Tom Paudler. “And these children deserve us to speak up for them, and it’s been a really neat experience,” said Carey Paulder.
The Max 5 Bill still needs the Governor’s signature before becoming law.
The Normalcy Bill passed in the House and should come up for a vote in the Senate next Tuesday.