Children are among the most vulnerable members of society, dependent on those closest to them for nurturing, guidance, and protection from harm. Sadly, many children are not safe in their own homes and must be placed in foster care or with relatives, often under cash-strapped circumstances. In Charleston County, South Carolina, the nonprofit agency Helping and Lending Outreach Support (HALOS) works with the Department of Social Services (DSS) to identify these children's specific needs and match them with local donorsindividuals, businesses, and other grassroots organizationswho are willing to lend their support.
HALOS demonstrates the critical difference that well-organized community involvement can make in bridging the gap between public and private resources to help endangered children. Closing this gap in services to children relieves the burden on caregivers to pay for essential goods and services and builds a child's sense of safety, security, and self-worth. The simple act of making sure that a child receives a birthday gift or cardperhaps for the first timecan reassure the child that he or she is special. Proper bedding, uniforms, and school supplies all contribute to a child's well-being and promote healthy development.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) first recognized HALOS as a promising model for community collaboration to assist child victims in 2002. Through a series of cooperative agreements, OVC funded HALOS to enhance and institutionalize its program in Charleston County and, in 2008, OVC awarded funds to support the program's replication in other communities. We are pleased to further support the program through the publication of this toolkit, The HALOS Strategy: Community Collaborations for Children. This resource describes how HALOS works and presents lessons learned, strategies, and sample tools for organizations interested in establishing similar programs in their communities.
Through HALOS, caseworkers know they have a reliable source for support beyond their agency's finite resources. Foster families and relatives who are hard-pressed to provide the basic necessities for the children in their care get needed assistance from compassionate neighbors. The HALOS concept is straightforward and everyone benefitscaseworkers, caregivers, and, most importantly, the children.
Joye E. Frost
Office for Victims of Crime