Safety a Disney movie shows a freshman at clemson fostering

Safety, Clemson, Disney, and Kinship Care in one movie

Safety, Clemson, Disney, and Kinship Care in one movie

Great movie from Disney for an understanding of Kinship care

Disney's new movie, "Safety," is an inspiring movie based on actual events that highlight the pros and cons of the child welfare system within the United States. The movie follows the story of a college football player at Clemson University in South Carolina who took on legal guardian rights and responsibilities of his 11-year-old brother.

The freshman Clemson football player, Ray McElrathbey, became a kinship caregiver to his younger brother, Fahmarr. Ray and Fahmarr's mother struggled with substance abuse, and their father struggled with a gambling addiction. Ray felt this environment would not be healthy for young Fahmarr to grow up in.

Instead of leaving him in the hands of the foster care system, Ray did what it took to provide for Fahmarr. Ray used his scholarship funds to provide for his brother financially. The pair lived together in off-campus student housing.

Typically, student-athletes are not allowed to use benefits that aren't available to the general school population. After strong advocacy efforts from the McElrathbey brothers, though, the NCAA granted Ray permission to use these benefits. This meant that Ray McElrathbey was able to receive assistance such as transportation and child care for his brother.

This movie depicts the powerful and loving dynamic between these two brothers. Ray's selflessness, commitment, and determination in providing care for his brother is inspiring to anyone who is looking to provide foster care or adopt. The social and emotional support of the teammates, coaches, and community pulled together to build a support system for the brothers. They helped Ray advocate and provide care for his younger brother.

This unexpected family of two on Clemson's campus highlights the problems within the foster care system. Children in foster care are in desperate need of placement, and relatives are typically the first place social services look for viable placement options. When a family member takes care of a child who has been placed in foster care, it's called kinship care.

Family members are considered first because they can already be a good support system in the child's life. This would make the transition from the birth parents to the foster parents easier for the child. It also allows the child to easily maintain their sense of connection and belonging.

When children are forced away from their home, they can start to present challenging behaviors. While foster families or family friends may see this as too big of a burden, kinship caregivers are usually more able to stick it out with the child. Just like with Ray and Fahmarr, kinship caregivers can be better allies for the foster child. That is the kind of care and support the child needs during those troubling times.

Though kinship care is usually the best option for children in foster care, family members can't always provide for the foster child. The reason is generally that the relatives don't have the finances to support the child. Money shouldn't be a reason a child is denied protection, love, and adequate care.

In 2018, after five years of advocacy efforts, Virginia State Lawmakers passed a kinship guardian assistance program called KinGap to address this funding gap. Before this, little funding was available to relatives taking on a child's family member's care. This lack of funding prevented relatives from coming forward to accept this enormous financial responsibility.

To address this financial barrier, KinGap allows monthly payments for children who enter foster care. The child needs to be placed with a relative for at least six months, and reunification with their birth family is no longer an option.

This relief effort addresses a longstanding need in the foster care system that people like Ray McElrathbey and his brother helped bring to public attention. There is still a lot that can be done to support family members who have agreed to care for their young relatives in need. However, the value of kinship care is beneficial for the child.

As awareness of this need increases, programs like KinGap have the chance to expand their reach. Soon they will better support and bring families together like Ray and Fahmarr McElrathbey to heal, inspire, and thrive. 



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