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Foster Care

It's Graduation Season!

It's Graduation Season!

This year there are 3.5 million students expected to graduate high school, a milestone each one of them has spent their entire lives working toward. But did you know that kids who have been in foster care are 50% less likely to graduate by the time they turn 19?

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day

“My favorite part of working at Palmetto Place is getting to know the kids we serve. Some of them have been through so much trauma and pain, but while they’re here, they’re just kids and teens.

Poker Run, Walk or Crawl Benefiting Palmetto Place

Are Harley Davidson bikes your passion? Do you enjoy playing poker? Do you want to help support the kids at Palmetto Place? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, the Poker Run, Walk, or Crawl is for you!

Spend Saturday, June 4th at the Thunder Tower Harley-Davidson!

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Registration starts at 10:00 am and the last draw is at 3:00 pm.

Tickets are only $15 per person and can be bought at the door. Come early for door prizes, a 50/50 raffle, the silent auction and great music.

The 2016 food vendors include Ronnie's Ribs, Scottie's cafe, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Be sure to check our other stops sponsored by Quaker Steak and Lube!

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Held annually in April, Child Abuse Prevention Month is the nationally designated month to acknowledge the importance of communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Think back to your childhood. Did someone help make it great? Maybe you had a grandparent, siblings, a teacher or a coach who looked out for you. Maybe you're that person in a child's life today.

At Palmetto Place we strive to be the people in a child's life who help make it great. The people who go above and beyond to create a safe and loving environment where a child can be themselves and only worries about kid things, like homework and new friends.

Too often we see the effects of child abuse and neglect hold children back in everyday situations. We've seen kids who hoard food, because before they came to us, they didn't know when they would eat next. We've seen young children who are developmentally delayed because they didn't get the stimuli they needed as babies. We've seen teens sabotage relationships because in their experience, everyone lets them down eventually. These are just some of the reasons prevention is so important.

For more information on Child Abuse Prevention Month, resources, and ways you can get involved, click here. You can show your support throughout April by celebrating the lives you touch and those who have touched yours by honoring them with a pinwheel– the national symbol for the great childhoods all children deserve.To purchase pinwheels visit Prevent Child Abuse America.

 

Blog- April

A New Year's Resolution

One of our favorite activities each January is the kids’ New Year’s Resolutions! We thought you’d enjoy seeing what’s on their minds for 2016. Our youngest, a 4-year-old, wants to eat more Chinese food and to go to school. This week we were able to enroll her in 4K. A 7-year-old boy wants a pet bird and to go to Disney. An 8-year-old wants to be a movie star, visit Paris and be a cheerleader for the Dallas "Cow Boys!" She'd also like to learn to enjoy math and get better grades in school, both of which are goals we are working towards. A 9-year-old boy wants to be adventurous and eat red pepper on his pizza, learn how to do a back flip and spin on his head, travel and learn the Electric Slide (our Case Manager has promised to teach him!)

All of the residents at Palmetto Place have goals for 2016. Stay tuned to hear what our teens are thinking about this year!

Dear Santa...

All of our kids wrote their letters to Santa earlier this month and, as you can probably imagine, Santa received a wide range of requests. Our little boys asked for action figures, toy airplanes and footballs, our teen girls want hair supplies, make up and jewelry. One wanted help paying for her dream prom dress. A 14-year-old wrote, “I don’t want much, but if you send me my family I will be the proudest (happiest), and that will be a Christmas Miracle.” For many, that simple Christmas wish of family is all they really want.

This year we were able to watch one girl’s Christmas miracle come true. I’m not sure if Santa has anything to do with it, but I can’t deny there is magic in the air. The day she came in from school and we were able to tell her she was going home, something special happened. You could see it in her face. At 14, she’s a believer. Before she left she whispered to me, “Santa does exist. I asked him to go home and now I am.”

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a child get their wish. As our many Palmetto Place Santas and elves collect gifts for our kids and our office turns into Santa’s Workshop once again, I notice items that were specifically asked for and I can’t help but smile knowing on Christmas morning more wishes will come true.

Many of the residents at Palmetto Place may not have happy memories of Christmas morning. For some, Santa has not visited every year. One teen didn’t want to write a letter to Santa because he “didn’t want to be disappointed again.” We’re making sure that this year Santa finds him on Christmas morning.

There are many Christmas traditions we love showing our children and teens. Like baking and decorating Christmas cookies, Christmas parties, making Christmas cards and leaving stockings out to be filled by Santa. Community service projects are also part of the Christmas tradition at Palmetto Place. The kids made beautiful cards for the veterans at Dorn VA and they’ll be delivering candy canes and hugs to some special folks next week. For some these are familiar traditions, for others the idea of decorating cookies is brand new.

With less than two weeks until Christmas, we have two open beds. Without a doubt they will be full on Christmas morning. It seems like every year we take in a child just days before Christmas. In addition to getting that child settled in, we also have emergency Santas on standby to make sure these kids have something special to open on Christmas Day. You can help us make Christmas special for each child at Palmetto Place, even the ones who haven’t arrived yet, by making a donation now. This year, every child will have fond memories of Christmas at Palmetto Place and we couldn’t do that without you and the support of the community.

By Grace Bennett, Project Coordinator

 

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When Your "Babies" Leave

When I took this position I knew it was going to be hard. “How do you care for a child for months, and then watch them leave?” I asked myself. Many people gave advice on how they'd handle a job like this, one where a child becomes attached to you, they call you mommy, you get attached to them, they are your babies. I heard it all “Do something special for yourself after a hard day. They’ll always remember what you did for them. Know that tomorrow there will be another child who needs the love only you can give.” I’ve seen many kids come to Palmetto Place in my six months here. There were kids here when I started who left before I got to know them. There have been kids who came and left so quickly I never even got to introduce myself. But there are a few who have been here since I started, I’ve grown to know them and care for them on a maternal level. These are my babies.

Today, I had to say goodbye to one on my babies. It’s a bitter sweet goodbye for us both. I greet her as she gets home from school, knowing that she hasn’t been told yet. I tell her I’ve got good news, she’s going home. As she looks at me with those big doe eyes and says, “I don’t want to leave my friends at Palmetto Place” I hold back tears. I don’t want her to leave me but I know I have to be strong.

Being placed with a family member is best for her, at the same time, I feel like her family. “If I can’t be there physically to tell her how smart and kind she is, who will?” I think to myself. “How will she know that I love her if she’s not here for me to tell her?” I can feel the tears start to form and know that I’m about to lose it.

So, I squeeze her one last time, extra hard so she knows I mean it. I tell her how special she is and that I’m always with her. Whenever she is missing her friends at Palmetto Place all she needs to do is close her eyes and relive her memories. (Deep down inside that little piece of advice was really for myself.)  I watch her walk out the front door, get into the car, and back out of the driveway. I feel a little hand grab mine, I’m pulled back to reality as a 6-year-old boy says, “I’ll miss her too.” I’m reminded that I’m still needed here, still needed by him, and that in my time at this job I will have more babies than I ever thought I could. 

 

Written by Grace Bennett
Project Coordinator

September is Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month

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Did you know that 1 in 6 people struggle to get enough to eat? What about the fact that food insecurities are particularly harmful to children?

Many people think hunger is directly influenced by poverty. Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same. Poverty in the United States is only one of many factors associated with food insecurity. In fact, higher unemployment, lower household assets, and certain demographic characteristics also lead to a lack of access to adequate, nutritious food.

In the United States today, 15 million children face hunger. Consequently, one in five kids are facing greater obstacles to reaching their fullest potential. The future of America lies in our children. When hunger threatens the future of a child, it threatens the future of our nation as well.

Food insecurity is harmful to all people, but it is particularly devastating to children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development. Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2012, 15.9 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life

While hunger has no boundaries, it does impact some communities more than others. African Americans are more than twice as likely to suffer from food insecurity as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. The Latino population in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade and continues to grow. Currently, Latino and African American communities are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, poverty and unemployment.

According to a 2012 study, there are 807,960 people in South Carolina who face food insecurity, 292,840 of those are children. As a state, 28% of children do not know when or what their next meal will be. Right here in Columbia 20% of children go hungry.

But there are ways you can help. Palmetto Place become home to some of these hungry children. In addition to providing a save shelter, and clothing we also feed 20 kids three times a day. On a weekly basis we use 7 gallons of milk, 30 pieces of chicken, 5 boxes of cereal and sometimes more than 15 boxes of after school snacks. The best way you can help during Hunger Action Month is by picking up gift cards next time you are at the store. Our house parents shop at local grocery stores during the week to make sure our kids get fresh meat, fruits, and veggies. So, next time you go grocery shopping, keep Palmetto Place on your list.

September is Hunger Action Month

For more information on hunger check out these fact sheets-

Hunger and Poverty Face Sheet

Child Hunger Fact Sheet

African American Hunger Fact Sheet

Latino Hunger Fact Sheet

What Does Home Feel Like?

“The known smells, sounds, sights, and feel of home let our brains relax and rejuvenate. It's a key part of why 'There's no place like home.'” When I saw this tweet from Amelia Franck Meyer (@alfranckmeyer), can you guess the first thing that came to mind?

If you know me, you know my mind went to the smell of food. My very first thought was of the smell of bacon as I walk into Palmetto Place in the morning. Ms. Matilda and Ms. LaConte cook some great breakfasts and the bacon smell is a great way to start the morning.

Amelia knows what she’s talking about – she knows kids and she knows kids who’ve experienced trauma. She’s the CEO of Anu Family Services in Wisconsin and Minnesota and a guru at well-being for kids and taking care of kids who are in out-of-home care, just like our kids. When she speaks, I listen, because what she says is important and crucial for the right care of kids who’ve experienced trauma.

So, let’s talk about the five senses of home.

 

Smell

Bacon in the mornings! And laundry - the almost nonstop smell of laundry. I love that clean smell!

 

Sound

I can mark the time in the afternoons by the sound of the kids on the basketball court. It means they’re home from school. It means I get to take a work break and go play for a few minutes and see how the day was at school. It’s 15 minutes that I can connect with kids as they unwind. I will always remember one particular middle schooler who started playing at exactly 3:45 every day all by himself. It was his way to relax and think through the day. I learned a lot from him.

 

Sight

Endless smiles. That’s what comes to mind. We have smiles in the mornings before school! Okay, truth – that’s mostly elementary school kids. Middle schoolers, well, they’re a little grumpy. High schoolers, they’re so independent that they’re just out the door. If you have kids, you know!

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There’s a lot to see at Palmetto Place. There are older kids helping younger kids, houseparents and volunteers helping kids with homework or playing games or reading. To walk through the house on any given afternoon is a treat. It is a house buzzing with activity. It is kids being kids.

 

Taste

Ask the kids and they will tell you their favorite foods! Ms. Gloria’s spaghetti, Ms. Jenny’s baked chicken, Ms. Betty’s shrimp fried rice, Ms. Jill’s Christmas Eve dinner and on and on and on. Ask kids and adults who once lived at Palmetto Place and they’ll have their own memories of food they loved.

 

Touch

A wise friend taught me something very smart years ago. Hugs, high fives and handshakes. As her kids enter her classroom each morning, they get to choose one. I borrowed this from her – that’s the highest form of flattery, right?

Hugs, high fives and handshakes are what all kids need, but especially kids who’ve experienced trauma, abuse, neglect. I’m a big fan of a hug. I hug every kid who wants a hug. New kids who’ve just arrived at Palmetto Place are understandably standoffish at first. Who is this woman and these other adults and all these kids who want to be my friend? Who can I trust? And after a day or so, after they’ve seen other kids give hugs, then they want in on the hugs and the high fives! That first hug is always a little hesitant. But then it becomes a giant group hug.

Touch. It’s how kids learn to connect with others. It’s a part of learning to trust. It’s a part of accepting love.

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Since it’s the first week of school, there are other parts of the sense of touch on my mind too. The feel of those brand new shoes. Carrying a brand new backpack to school. Writing with a newly sharpened pencil on that smooth new composition notebook. Everyone's new haircuts! Thank you InnerSole, FiA Midlands, AFLAC, TD Bank and many others for providing shoes, school supplies and much more!)

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Do you see a pattern? All of these memories through senses – they are the feel of home. And there’s no place like home. When home isn’t a safe place, there is Palmetto Place.

~ Erin Hall, Executive Director

Kevin's day off

Kevin's day off

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Monday marked the first day of school for our children… well, everyone except Kevin. Kevin was thrilled to have the whole big house and all of the houseparents’ attention to himself today. He said that he woke up later than everyone else – and it “ROCKED!”

Later, he took his two new favorite toys, Batman and Spiderman, and the three of them played a rousing game of pick-up basketball (it was a close game, but Kevin made a last-second three point shot to win against the plastic figurines).

After basketball, Kevin went on an adventure with the houseparents; getting him registered for school. As he walked up to the elementary school he was nervous; starting a new school year is never easy. After getting the paperwork filled out Kevin wanted to meet his new teacher. Although he can’t remember her name, he said, “She seems really nice. I’m excited about fourth grade even if I’m going to have to learn multiplication!” He was starting to feel better about starting school when he heard a familiar voice. Darting down the hall and around a corner he saw his favorite substitute teacher!

On their way home from running errands he asked if he could get his favorite lunch, McDonalds and chocolate milk! He ate lunch with some staff members, something he doesn’t normally get to do when all the kids are home. He expressed a little apprehension about having to take timed multiplication tests, but quickly talked himself out of it when he realized how smart he would be once he mastered multiplication.

Though he was excited to get back to school to see his friends, what was even more exciting was that this afternoon, he got to pick whatever channel he wanted on TV. Unrestricted by “all those girls” to choose a suitable movie, Kevin was able to kick back and watch Cars, and took up as much room on the couch as he wanted. As Cars came to its denouement, Kevin realized he had done everything he had wanted to do in his day off. Luckily, just then, the van with the other kids pulled into the driveway and they came barreling into the house, wide-ruled notebooks and #2 pencils flying.

Kevin loved the peace and quiet of the morning, but by the end of the day he was thankful for the usual hustle, bustle and chatter. He was thrilled to have the other kids back around – those he has come to consider his family – so he could hear their stories of new classrooms, new teachers and old friends on the playground. By the end of the school day, Kevin couldn’t wait to begin his own school journey tomorrow (even if he does have to learn multiplication). We wish for you and yours the same that we wish for all our children – a happy and healthy start to the school year! We can’t wait to see what this year brings!

My Favorite Firecracker

My Favorite Firecracker

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Kayleigh Medina was a volunteer at Palmetto Place in the spring of 2015. These are her reflections on her time with our kids:

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For the past semester, I’ve been volunteering at a local children’s shelter. At first, I was only going with the intentions of getting my 15 community service hours for one of my classes. The first time I went, I was terrified. I love kids, but I found every reason to complain about taking time out of my week to hang out with kids that might not even like me. Boy, was I wrong. Here I am, in tears at the end of the semester because I won’t get to see any of them for 3 months, and I might not see some of them ever again.

The first time I went to Palmetto Place, I was scared, skeptical, and hesitant. I thought the kids were going to make fun of me, distrust me, and want nothing to do with me. I quickly realized that this was not true at all. Yes, they were sassy and defensive – but can you blame them? Many of them have already had to fend for themselves considerably during their relatively short lives.

Out of all of the children I have met here, one special three year-old girl has impacted me the most. She is an absolute firecracker. I met her the second time I volunteered here. She latched right on to me, and we became buddies. Later that day, she fell into a bad mood, and decided that she didn’t want to share with any of us. I held her still for a minute and asked, “Do you know why I am here?” She shook her head, “No.” I replied, “I am here to play with you and to be your friend. Do you want to be my friend?” She nodded her head with an excited “Yes!” I prompted her, “Well, friends share with each other, love each other, and are kind to each other – think you can handle that?” I watched her consider my request for approximately thirty seconds, and then I watched her completely refute my advice (three year-olds and logic don’t always mesh well). I left that day, knowing that I learned something big, and hoping that this little girl did too.

I returned the next week, and immediately felt someone tugging at my shirt (and, of course, my heart). I looked down and (who would have guessed it?) it was that same little girl. She excitedly declared “I’m not going to do what I did last time because I want to be your friend.” This was huge, coming from a three year-old. It took me only that moment to realize that I wasn’t here just to sign off on a few service hours and leave. I was there for children like her. I was there because I am passionate about these special children and this special place. I wasn’t assigned to Palmetto Place. I went there, and I continued to go, because I felt like I was able to make an impact on these children.

I now go to Palmetto Place every Thursday, and it is honestly the highlight of my week. I get excited just walking into that door and hanging out with these kids once a week. They break my heart and mend it back together all at the same time. Thinking about what these kids have already gone through in their lives tears me apart. Why should innocent children have to suffer from situations that aren’t in their control whatsoever? When I think about the home that these children and youth might be coming from, and the home that they might have to return to, I am so thankful for their temporary home at Palmetto Place. Without non-profit homes and shelters like Palmetto Place, these children could have ended up in mass orphanages, or in unsteady, and often unsafe, home environments.

My time serving at the shelter this past semester is something that I will never forget. These kids will remain in my heart and my prayers for a long time. The hope that I see in their eyes, despite everything they have been through, is beautiful to me. These children have every right to feel disparaged by, and distrustful of, the world, yet they placed their trust right in the palm of my hand. Here at Palmetto Place, I get to help kids realize their full potential in life, and teach them that they aren’t defined by their starting points in life, but by how far they come.

May is National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month, a month set aside to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. During National Foster Care Month, we renew our commitment to ensuring a bright future for the nearly 400,000 children and youth in foster care, and we celebrate all those who make a meaningful difference in their lives. Visit online for more information.

--From The Children's Bureau, within the US Dept. of Health & Human Services