In Charleston County, South Carolina (population of about 350,000), the Department of Social Services (DSS) manages between 1,800 and 2,000 open cases of child abuse and neglect at any given time, with more than 200 of those children in foster care. Eleven percent of all children in the state live with relatives other than their biological parents. Many of these caregivers live on a shoestring budget and find it difficult to provide even the most basic necessities for the children, such as diapers, cribs, and school supplies. Allowances from child welfare agencies often are inadequate for foster families to meet the children's needs. Kinship caregivers in South Carolina receive no compensation.
Helping and Lending Outreach Support (HALOS) began in 1997 as a grassroots initiative to address gaps in the financial assistance these families receive and what the children actually need. After learning of similar programs in Connecticut, California, and Texas, pediatrician and child psychiatrist Eve Spratt, M.D., proposed to her church the idea of matching community donations to the needs of foster children and children cared for in the homes of family members other than their parents. Dr. Spratt enlisted the faith community in Charleston County to partner with DSS to provide essential goods and services to foster parents and relatives caring for abused and neglected children. In its first year, HALOS focused almost exclusively on partnerships with the faith community, collecting "critical needs" items valued at nearly $40,000.
Since incorporating as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2004, HALOS has formalized its operations and greatly expanded its base of community partners. Today HALOS receives annual in-kind donations valued at approximately $250,000.