Child welfare caseworkers and other family service providers identify children's specific needs and HALOS finds donors in the community who are willing and able to meet those needs. HALOS accepts requests from agencies and organizations on behalf of relatives who are caring for children in the absence of their parents in order to prevent them from entering the foster care system. HALOS then communicates the needs identified by case managers through monthly meetings with representatives of its partner organizations and via an e-newsletter. HALOS partners with hundreds of individual donors and more than 50 businesses, volunteer groups, and faith-based organizations throughout Charleston County to fulfill more than 3,000 requests each year ranging from clothing and school supplies to sports and summer camp fees.
At its inception, HALOS employed an "Adopt-a-Caseworker" model, matching individual donors to individual child welfare caseworkers. The caseworkers would identify specific needs among the children in their caseloads and the donors would find ways to meet those needs. The model has evolved over time, and now, rather than a one-to-one match, HALOS is the linchpin between DSS case managers, who identify the specific needs of children and families in their caseloads, and a pool of individuals and organizations in the Charleston community that have partnered with HALOS to help meet those identified needs.
This model, with HALOS as the focal point, allows HALOS to communicate directly with case managers, which enables HALOS staff and its partners to match their resources more efficiently with the children's needs, and ultimately, to serve more children. Because the HALOS model prevents direct communication between donors and recipients, it also protects the privacy of the children and their families by keeping their information confidential.
Challenge To Consider
- How can child protection caseworkers and case managers be assured that the program will help alleviate their workload and not exacerbate it?
HALOS offers a variety of ways for community partners and donors to support children and families in Charleston County, from birthday and holiday greetings and gifts to collections for school supplies, car seats, cribs, beds, and other essential items. It is a simple concept that benefits everyone—caseworkers, who have a ready source of support in their community; caregivers, who no longer have to pay for essential goods and services out-of-pocket; and most of all, the children, who have beds to sleep in, clothes for school, and a reason to look forward to birthdays and holidays.
HALOS's giving programs include
- Birthday salutes. HALOS sends birthday cards and gifts to every child in foster care in Charleston County, South Carolina.
- Summer camp. Donors can sponsor children to participate in one of the area's many summer camps.
- Back to school drives. Donors can sponsor a child and handpick back-to-school items or donate cash so that HALOS can purchase needed items.
- Holiday giving. Donors can either "adopt-a-family" or contribute gifts to individual children; organizations can sponsor a "giving tree."
- Critical needs. HALOS solicits donations of cribs, beds, other furniture, and clothing for families, foster parents, and relatives who care for abused or neglected children.
- Kinship care. HALOS organizes monthly gatherings and support groups for caregivers who have welcomed abused and neglected children into their homes. Volunteers provide meals and childcare.
- Car seat campaign. HALOS solicits new car seats so that infants and small children can travel safely.
- Resource closet. Many small items are stored at HALOS headquarters to help DSS caseworkers meet the most immediate needs of children and families.
The possibilities for giving are limited only by the imagination.
HALOS operates with two core staff: an executive director and a family advocate/volunteer coordinator. The coordinator screens requests from DSS caseworkers and matches them with donated items, circulates requests for additional donations to fulfill unmet needs, and arranges for storage and delivery of the items.
Since 2005, DSS has provided a liaison for HALOS who understands the language and process of managing child protective services cases and has the authority to communicate with case managers about children and families. The DSS liaison communicates with DSS caseworkers to learn the needs of children and caregivers in their caseloads and chairs monthly meetings with HALOS partners to convey these needs. The liaison also coordinates the back-to-school, summer camp, birthday, and holiday campaigns.
Challenges To Consider
- What kind of formal or informal agreements are necessary to solidify the program's relationships with the child protection agency and partnering organizations?
- What are the pros and cons of establishing an independent organization versus affiliating with an existing organization with common interests?
HALOS also benefits from a dedicated and active Board of Directors. A Board Profile Matrix displays key characteristics of existing and potential board members and helps identify gaps (for example, in diversity of representation or certain skill sets) that may be considered essential to the organization's short- and long-term success. HALOS leadership can then recruit board members to fill these gaps.
Community partners are essential to HALOS's success. HALOS is continuously building its foundation of organizations and individuals who donate goods, services, and time to help the program meet the needs of relatives, caregivers, and children. HALOS's partners include a wide range of faith, community, and social groups that sponsor children for annual events, such as summer camp, or "adopt" families for holiday gifts. Corporate sponsors help by underwriting community events and encouraging their employees to donate or volunteer their time. HALOS asks its partners what they expect to contribute each year so that staff can better plan for additional recruitment or fundraising as needed.
Volunteers are always welcome to help organize items in the Resource Closet or help with meals and childcare during the monthly Kinship Care Support Group meetings. HALOS volunteers must be over 16 years of age, pass a background check, and attend a 1-hour orientation.
Challenges To Consider
- Which of the program's staff, board members, community partners, or volunteers should be subjected to background checks?
- What kind of agreement is required with program staff, board members, community partners, and volunteers to best protect the program's interests and its clients?
HALOS has developed several forms to help caseworkers submit requests for the various needs of the families they supervise:
- The Adopt a Family Form encourages individuals or organizations to make sure that children are not forgotten at holiday time.
- The Monetary Request Form solicits cash donations to purchase needed items or services.
- The Resource Closet Request Form identifies specific items that are routinely stocked.
- The Special Needs Request Form is used for families needing beds or cribs, other furniture, or clothing.
HALOS collects items from donors whenever they are available and distributes the items based on the requests that have been received from the DSS caseworkers. HALOS pays someone to pick up and store donations and deliver them to families that need them. A caseworker must be present at the time of delivery.
Challenges To Consider
- How will furniture and other large items be transported from the donor location? Where will these items be stored before they are delivered to the recipient family?
- What is the program's liability for the condition of items such as cribs and playpens? What kind of insurance may be needed?
- How can the program protect its clients' privacy when delivering products or providing services?
Public Awareness and Outreach
Public awareness and outreach must be ongoing priorities for any program to survive, and they are central components of HALOS, Ambassadors for Children, and the Lancaster County Outreach Project. These activities are essential to recruiting community partners, donors, and volunteers; and to securing cash donations to support salaries for program staff and operating expenses to sustain their work. HALOS's executive director never misses an opportunity to promote the program at community gatherings, business meetings, and public events. HALOS also uses e-newsletters and monthly meetings to maintain high levels of interest and commitment among its partners.
The directors of all three programs rely heavily on Web sites and social media for their public awareness and outreach initiatives. They speak to faith-based and community organizations; distribute brochures, fliers, and newsletters; and work hard to cultivate relationships with their local media to help publicize fundraising events.
Challenges To Consider
- How can the program generate and maintain high levels of interest and commitment among its community partners?
- How can the program attract new partners and donors?