Mary and Carl Brown
EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS, SOUTH CAROLINA FOSTER CARE ASSOCIATION
For the past 37 years, Carl and Mary Brown have opened their home and hearts to more than 150 abused and neglected children of South Carolina, of which many were special needs children.
After becoming licensed in 1974, the Browns became widely involved in the foster parent movement, being sent by the South Carolina Department of Social Services as state emissaries to the National Foster Parent Association conference in Hawaii. This early in the history of the NFPA, the organization’s primary agenda was to provide the training required for foster parent certification. It was also a forum for networking among foster parents, lawmakers, social service professionals, and agencies that would strengthen the position of foster parents and help them advocate for themselves and the children in their care.
Carl Brown served as Vice-President of the National Foster Parent Association for four years and later as President for another four years. At the end of the Presidency, the Browns were active in NFPA scheduling, organizing, and planning the national conferences. During this time, Carl Brown also became Vice-President for the International Foster Care Organization, attending conferences and providing workshops in England, Belgium, and New Zealand.
Realizing early during this period that South Carolina needed the infrastructure for local foster parenting that was bearing fruit through the national association, and having strong backing from the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Browns networked assiduously across the state. In October 1975, as chairman of the steering committee for the incipient South Carolina Foster Parent Association, Carl Brown sent a letter to all county directors inviting them and their staff as well as foster parents throughout the state to a meeting in Columbia, South Carolina to ratify a proposed constitution and by-laws for the organization. The gathering was a resounding success, and the SCFPA was launched.
In 1990, realizing that much more needed to be done locally, the Browns turned their full attention to the state organization. Since its formation, the South Carolina Foster Parent Association has served as support and infrastructure for the state’s foster parents, speaking for them locally and nationally, securing their eligibility to be considered as adoptive parents for the children they foster, and seeing that they are heard and their rights furthered on all levels of government and society.
Representing the 46 counties in South Carolina, there are 41 county or county-cluster organizations, each with elected officials and a DSS liaison. These leaders convene quarterly under state association direction. SCFPA arranges all pre-service training for perspective foster parents and re-certification training for licensed foster parents. SCFPA also has a state-wide recruitment program for foster and adoptive homes.
In addition, the state association provides educational support for foster children, including scholarships and annual awards for academic and general excellence; manages Independent Living services encompassing the provision of laptops for college students, cars for deserving teens, incidentals that the Department of Social Services cannot provide for foster adolescents in college, and aging-out showers to help young adults set up housekeeping; enables foster children to participate in beneficial summer programs; and sees to information sharing among foster parents, DSS, government, and appropriate news media to help assure foster parents’ rights.
Specific goals shift to meet evolving needs. The basics remain the same, however, as the Browns continue their leadership of the organization and the SCFPA continues to provide vital support, infrastructure, training, recruitment, and a public voice for foster children and families across South Carolina, across the years. As wise voices have noted, it takes a community to raise a child. The SCFPA’s greatest hope is to go on playing a critical role in helping to prepare South Carolina’s foster children for a happy and productive future.
Carl Brown is Executive Director of the South Carolina Foster Parent Association and Mary Brown is Office Administrator.
The Browns believe a family is the best place for a child to grow up, and their commitment to them and their love of God and family is the most important thing in their life, and this is taught and shared with everyone that comes into their home. They do more than “house and feed” them - they accept them, love them, and help them grow. They cry with them, laugh with them, and teach each one of them that they are important human beings. Their caring and commitment to these children provide a very positive image of foster care to all of those who come in contact with them and their children.
The Browns strive to make a difference by working with birth parents and grandparents.
Their home is open for birth family visits when possible, teaching them parenting skills and helping to find housing and jobs or whatever is needed for families to be reunited. They work closely with the teachers and schools to see that each child reaches their fullest academic potential.
The Browns are parents of 3 biological and 6 adopted children. They currently have 2 children at home and 2 foster children in their care. Their greatest joy comes from helping a child in need and giving them the love and nurturing they so deserve.