HoopDanceThe Center has enjoyed a partnership with the Catawba Indian Nation since SCDSS first asked for an updated training about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (usually shortened to ICWA). ICWA protects the cultural life and well-being of Native peoples by ensuring that all Native children have a chance to remain connected to their tribal family if their parents cannot care for them.

After performing a needs analysis, the Center and DSS agreed that we would create a number of training elements including a video about Catawba culture and an interactive timeline with highlights from their 6000 years of history.

In the fall of 2015, a team from the Center traveled to the Catawba Indian Nation for three days of interviews and filming on the Reservation. They interviewed former Chief Gilbert Blue and current Chief William Harris. They also interviewed Catawba potters, storytellers, a social worker, a tribal dancer who is also a musician, and native Catawba speakers. The team recorded footage of the Catawba’s annual culture and arts festival at the Longhouse. Back at the Center, the team edited the footage to create a video that brings the story of the Catawba to learners across the state.

By producing training about the history and rich cultural life of the Catawba, the Center hopes to raise awareness about the Catawba. We also hope to show learners how vital keeping Native children and youth connected to their tribe is. The Catawba are South Carolina’s only federally recognized Native American tribe, and reside on part of their ancestral lands in York County. Despite their 6000 years of history in our area, many South Carolinians are unaware of the Catawba’s presence and their rich cultural heritage. The Center sees this video as ambassadorial training, to inform and to bring people to visit the Nation either online or in person.

It has been an honor to work with tribal leadership and record the stories and hopes of the members.

privette“When the Center implemented LAS, our goal was to make it highly applicable to South Carolina,” says Donna Privette, the Center trainer who facilitates the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS) for child welfare supervisors at the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS).

The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) developed the original online curriculum to enhance the leadership capacity of individuals who work in social services. The Center’s version of LAS for supervisors and performance coaches at DSS is unique and highly impactful. The Center has been dubbed the “rock stars” of LAS nationally according to Marshall Soloway, NCWWI’s LAS Technology Director.

The national NCWWI curriculum was developed by child welfare experts across the country and includes the latest research and best practices in child welfare supervision. When adapting the course for South Carolina, the Center focused on the curriculum’s strengths, combining the rich online content with in-class reinforcement, application, and networking. After each of the five online modules, participants come together for a “learning network” day, where they exchange ideas and focus on ways to apply what they’ve learned.

Implementing a change initiative is a major requirement for each participant. The change initiative is a course of action that the participant identifies to address a need or improve a program area. By implementing their change initiative, participants have an opportunity to practice the leadership skills they are learning during the course.

Often change initiatives include enhancing community partnerships with law enforcement, private counselors, and alcohol and drug abuse providers. Donna uses her considerable experience in developing community partnerships in this course and adds that, “Building strong partnerships is an integral part of leadership and requires specific competencies like advocacy, communication, coordination, collaboration, and negotiation.”

South Carolina is one of only 13 states offering the LAS course. Twenty-five participants including supervisors and performance coaches are nominated by their supervisor each year in South Carolina and proceed through the 4-month course in a cohort.

Terri Thompson who participated in the course says, “Before LAS, I didn’t do anything different for recruitment.” As part of the course, she looked at research on the reasons people left their jobs in any industry. Terri, now a county director at DSS, began to approach the hiring process in a completely different manner with group interviews and more accurate descriptions of a typical day for a staff member.

The Center has been offering LAS to DSS supervisors for four years and has trained over 130 supervisors. Over this period, the expectations and requirements for supervisors have increased. This year Donna is offering increased individual support to participants as they go through the course. The Center is continually improving the course and striving for excellence in every aspect.

Donna says, “As DSS leaders grow and develop their leadership skills, we expect to see increased retention of the workforce and improved services to the children and families of South Carolina.”

Claire Houle, the university’s Wellness Ambassador for the Center, believes that the New Year is an opportunity for employees to focus on the dimensions of wellness. UofSC defines wellness as a holistic, well-balanced approach to living and specifies eight dimensions of wellness: occupational, intellectual, emotional, physical, financial, social, spiritual, and environmental.

Houle says, “When we feel weak in one dimension, like worrying about our finances or feeling lonely and frustrated, we don’t feel well and it bleeds over into other dimensions, often affecting our work.” With the beginning of a new calendar year, Houle hopes that people do not become overwhelmed by trying to achieve perfection in a particular dimension—often physical or financial. Instead, she hopes that they will approach wellness as a series of small, and therefore sustainable, changes they can make throughout the year.

As a Wellness Ambassador, Houle serves Center staff by helping them identify their needs and connecting them to opportunities that address those needs, creating individualized plans to achieve holistic wellness.
For example, in November she arranged for a flu clinic to be available in the Center’s main office building, where staff could receive flu shots without an appointment. She has planned a free worksite health screening in the spring where employees can receive a free physical evaluation at their worksite, including some basic bloodwork. Houle says that worksite screening can’t be matched for convenience and cost-effectiveness, and employees can act on the individual results they receive.

She also plans to focus on the physical environment by leading a workspace renewal initiative that includes ergonomic calibration for each worker’s desk and computer. To address the social dimension, she assists Center leadership and human resources with finding opportunities to connect with one another at work. Houle says, “Sharing our talents with others on a level beyond work helps us relate to one another better, improving both the climate in which we work and also the organizational culture.”

Houle is excited about the possibilities for enhancing wellness at the Center: “Wellness at work means being at peace, feeling invigorated, and being empowered. We can work together as a group to gain and maintain that state.”

Toothy Girl news

The Center’s Information Design Team put forth its talents to help The South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) with its rebranding effort. SCDSS launched a new website and released new communications materials as part of its overall rebranding.

The Center teamed up with SCDSS and Mad Monkey, LLC to assist with the web redesign. “Because of the great need for caseworkers and for foster parents, we first launched two microsites to target the agency’s recruitment efforts. This addressed the immediate need while the larger site was developed,” explained Beck Sullivan, Information Design Senior Program Manager.

The Center also assisted with other materials for caseworker and foster parent recruitment. “All of these recruitment materials needed to direct interested people to a website. That’s why we used the strategy of building the microsites first,” said Sullivan.

In addition to recruitment materials, The Center created an Agency Template Toolbox. This toolbox contains templates for presentations, agendas, “Save the Date” cards, announcements, flyers, and several custom image assets. “We incorporated their new logo and color palette into these materials. We tailored images for the agency’s different program areas and customized them so that they would coordinate with their website,” said Sullivan.

The new look has been used in all types of correspondence and has been integrated throughout the agency. Through this interconnectedness, all SCDSS divisions and departments are reinforcing the agency’s principles by working together to assist families in need.

Along with these changes, the agency is refocusing to achieve what SCDSS State Director Susan Alford calls her guiding principles: competency, courage, and compassion.

“With these guiding principles, we feel that we will be able to achieve a certain standard of work throughout the agency,” according to Marilyn Matheus, SCDSS Director of Public Information. The Center is proud to have contributed to this rebranding campaign, which encourages workers to embrace these principles and to find ways to strengthen South Carolina families.

floodIn early October of 2015, South Carolina experienced a terrible confluence of weather systems that led to catastrophic rain and flooding. Dubbed the “1000 Year Flood,” the high waters raged uncontrollably: homes and businesses were wrecked, water supplies disrupted. But even as many people were in their greatest need, South Carolinians responded with incredible generosity. Center staff were among them.

Some staff volunteered in churches, washing and packing clean clothes for victims, and unloading relief supply trucks. Some helped with carpentry, starting needed demolition and beginning the repairs on homes of friends and strangers who were overwhelmed by the waters. Some called on their entire families to help with street clean-up and lend a hand at animal shelters, cleaning the facilities and playing with lonely and anxious animals.  One staff member ventured out and took photographs of the aftermath to help raise awareness about the impact of the flood and help people coordinate response. In addition, as a unit, the Quality Assurance team raised money to donate to Harvest Hope Food Bank, which was swamped with demand for food and water in a city largely without power or fresh water.

The Center’s partner, DSS, responded immediately to the crisis, running shelters, emergency evacuations and arranging Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (DSNAP) financial benefits for those who lost what little they already had. The Center supported this effort as well, this time as a body. Center staff organized housing for DSS crisis responders. We collected, printed and delivered DSNAP materials so that DSS staff could get benefits to needy people. And our HABLA program provided translation services so that DSNAP materials could be available in Spanish in order to reach as many people who might need help.

The Center offers humble appreciation for the individual acts of kindness and determination shown by employees in the aftermath of the storm.  We are proud to employ people whose sense of ethics and obligation are so keen and whose kindness is so ready. With employees like these, the Center is a stronger, better place, focused on its mission to help others in our professional and personal lives.

leading1The day a carefully researched, written, designed and programmed training goes live is always an exciting time for Center employees. For the team working on the new Leading for Results in Economic Services supervisory training, that day was Friday, August 26, 2016. Team members high-fived each other, happy that all was running smoothly and learners were in the online environment, taking their first steps to new horizons of leadership.

Months before, our partner SCDSS asked the Center for a dynamic, engaging training for Economic Services supervisory staff around using the rich data that the agency gathers to help lead their teams to the best performance possible. The project team designed the online portion and the two-day in-person training as an integrated experience that teaches supervisors new and needed skills while also helping broaden their perspective, to see themselves as coaches to their employees.

Some of the Center’s greatest strengths are close partnership with our clients and then meticulous, creative development of online and in-person learning experiences. After a focused needs analysis and co-development with DSS partners, the Center designed a targeted online training to launch learners into in-person practice. This online set of interactive videos provides the crucial foundation for a two-day, in-person learning experience.

The in-person portion of the training focuses on skills practice with role-play. This training is an example of the Center’s focus on context-based training so that when learners return to work, they’ve already had practice, not just theory, in new methods and skills.  During the first day of training, supervisors examine ways to have critical conversations with workers to coach for improved performance. Between the two days of training, they have the opportunity to practice their new skills at the office. When they return for the second day of training, they work on polishing their new skills by workshopping their interactions.  Overall, they become more confident and able to lead workers to better performance, which means better service for South Carolinians.

marvitaRecently hired as the program coordinator for leadership development at the Center, Marvita Franklin, MHRD, believes that leaders in organizations like DSS and the Center can learn a lot about themselves, their employees, and their institutions from sports psychology. In fact, Franklin believes leaders can apply strategies that help athletes improve their performance to their own jobs, making them more effective in the workplace.

Franklin is especially drawn to the ideas of Dr. Robert Nideffer, a sports psychologist whose interactions with world-class athletes led him to discover four traits they have in common: focus, confidence, commitment, and adaptability. Franklin will be delivering a new training that looks at the ways in which these traits resonate with leadership. The first training of the series, “Leading Under Pressure: Adaptive Strategies for Enhancing Leader Effectiveness,” is being offered to Center leaders in December; the series will be launching with DSS in January 2016.

Franklin has vast experience with the material and has been a leader herself in various capacities. Before joining the Center staff, she served in the United States Air Force (now retired), worked for the Army coaching recruiting leaders to improve performance, and helped develop training curricula and materials for various organizations.

The first “Leading Under Pressure” training addresses the importance of being mentally tough and adaptive as leaders. Before this training, participants take the TAIS inventory (Theory of Attentional and Interpersonal Style), which helps them understand their personal strengths and vulnerabilities as leaders.

Future trainings will address topics ranging from strategic communication and coaching to decision making and organizational change. Franklin is excited to be on board at the Center and looks forward to developing and delivering these trainings in the coming weeks and months.

MEPALearners in all arenas fear boring training. To create memorable, meaningful, and motivational learning, the Center uses a context-based approach to learning online, as taught by industry-leader Allen Interactions, Inc. Context-based learning often means using immersive scenarios that mimic the world in which the learner works every day. Scenarios in familiar settings engage practitioners right away and when they return to work, they already have some experience with new skills.

So when tasked with creating a compliance training for the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, the Center set out to create a dynamic, immersive online learning package that shows how vitally important understanding and using MEPA should be―and gives learners actions they can and must take with every placement.

The online learning package grounds learners with a vibrant, illustrated magazine-style online history of the Act, particularly in South Carolina. History can be presented in boring ways―but this document offers case histories and lots of examples to keep the learner intrigued and rooted in practical concerns.

Then, the learners explore a series of scenario-based stories filled with decision points. As the learners gain better understanding of MEPA policy and practice at each step, they receive feedback on their decisions. These story-based scenarios show real-life consequences of learners’ decisions; the story of a child’s life is changed by the learners’ actions. Thus, there are meaningful stakes in the modules. But unlike in the real world, learners can try again and choose another path if they’ve made poor or uninformed decisions. They can see the benefit of making MEPA-compliant decisions―and the harm of poor decisions.  

The scenarios also offer printable resources that leaners can keep for later reference after the training is complete.

The Center eagerly begins the new contract year with plans for further immersive and engaging online and hybrid courses to intrigue, educate and support our partners at SCDSS.

lisacar2Lisa Stuchell, one of our writers at The Center, was on her way to work when suddenly her Ford Taurus stalled. Lisa knew immediately that the transmission had failed because every other part of the vehicle had been recently replaced. While the car had only 75,000 miles on it, Lisa recognized that the cost of repair would be too much.

Rather than attempt to sell the Taurus, Lisa decided to donate to On the Road Again, the South Carolina Foster Parent Association’s vehicle donation program. The purpose of the program is to provide youth transitioning out of foster care a means of establishing independence. Candidates are between the ages of 18 to 20, and must either have a job and/or be in the process of pursuing higher education.

At first Lisa was uncertain as to whether the program would even accept her car because the transmission is a costly replacement, but On the Road Again accepts vehicles in all kinds of conditions, and uses monetary donations to fund the cost of maintenance. Brian Marion, the program’s coordinator, says, “We accept anything that is a vehicle, and will do any repairs we need to, like replacing motors, or transmissions, or even putting a top on a convertible…We will utilize any vehicle to create transportation for youth.”

Easy access to transportation can mean the difference between continuing education and employment, and having to forgo these opportunities altogether. When asked what these cars mean to those who receive them, Brian said, “Our experience is that they are extremely excited and extremely grateful. They realize immediately the impact that these cars will have for them.”

Lisa got to meet the person who would receive her vehicle, a young woman who dreams of joining the Peace Corps one day. Upon seeing the car, the young woman was overcome with excitement. “She is an amazing person,” Lisa said. “Because of the work we do at The Center, I was really happy to help a youth in need.”

For more information about how you can contribute to On the Road Again, please visit: http://www.scfpa.com/Programs.aspx.

On June 10th, high school and college graduates from across the state gathered at the Columbia Conference Center to attend South Carolina’s Fourth Annual Independent ilgradLiving Graduation Ceremony. Graduates donned in black robes and gold stoles proudly approached the stage to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance to be recognized for their academic achievements. For our graduates, earning a high school or college diploma is no small feat: each graduate is in or has been in foster care, and has surmounted unimaginable hardship to earn their degree.

The graduates were greeted with inspiring speeches from Susan Alford, SC NYTD, and GOALL. Keynote Speaker, TerQuieshin Pringle, having also beaten the odds in the foster care system, recounted the importance of using her experiences to the benefit of those in the community: “I have been where you’ve been. Many people told me that I would be just like my mother, just like my father, but everything that you went through… I promise, is for your greater story. That you would be able to tell somebody else about how you made it—and that’s our obligation to others: to share our story because it may save someone’s life.”

Toward the end of the ceremony, after each graduate received their diploma, GOAL presented the My Guiding Light Award. Recipients of the award are model mentors; they are foster parents, caregivers, or case managers who have worked tirelessly to inspire and to guide a child in foster care. This year’s award goes to Lydia Martin. There was scarcely a dry eye in the room as she and her nominator—former foster child, now adopted daughter—exchanged hugs, a simple act which gave the audience a glimpse into how love and compassion can utterly transform a life.  

Congratulations to the class of 2016 for your hard work and perseverance! You did it.

catawbaSouth Carolina is Indian Country! South Carolina boasts a number of state-recognized Indian tribes and groups and one federally recognized tribe, the Catawba Indian Nation. Located in York County outside of Rock Hill, the Catawba Nation is an integral part of South Carolina history. DSS seeks to honor that history and the current lives of Native Americans in SC with a training and education effort for the entire agency and its partners.

DSS has turned to CCFS to develop and deliver a multifaceted training aimed at understanding Native American heritage in South Carolina and focused on preserving the dignity and respect of cultural connections within the state. One aspect of this training is a multimedia training module called “Ask the Question!”

“Ask the Question!” is being developed to improve workers’ compliance with the federal act of 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act. According to ICWA, when a child comes into contact with DSS workers MUST ask if the child is of Native American heritage. If the child is so identified, DSS MUST contact the Catawba tribe in order to determine how the child will maintain connections with her Native American roots. Thus, the cultural life of America’s First Peoples is supported and preserved.

The Center is also working closely with the Catawba Nation to develop an interactive timeline of the Nation’s history and to film a documentary about the Nation’s people. These training elements are to help make the Nation’s presence vivid in caseworkers’ and partners’ minds as they serve and strengthen the lives of children and families in South Carolina.

The Center is proud to support the welfare of Native children and families in South Carolina and honored to work with the Catawba Indian Nation.

South Carolina’s Native American Tribes, Groups and Organizations

Federally Recognized Tribe:

Catawba Indian Nation

State-recognized Tribes:

Beaver Creek Indians
Edisto Natchez Kusso Tribe of South Carolina
Pee Dee Nation of Upper South Carolina
Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina
Santee Indian Organization
The Sumter Tribe of the Cheraw
Wassamasaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians, also known as Waccamaw Indian People

State-recognized Tribal Groups:

Chaloklowa Chickasaw Indian People.
Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. (a.k.a. Cherokee Indian Tribe of South Carolina or ECSIUT)
Natchez Indian Tribe
Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek
Piedmont American Indian Association of South Carolina (or Piedmont American Indian Association - Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina)

State-recognized tribal Special Interest Organizations:

American Indian Chamber of Commerce of South Carolina
Little Horse Creek American Indian Cultural Center
Source: http://shpo.sc.gov/res/native/Pages/natribes.aspx

qatrainChildren in danger need the best help possible. To strive for greater skills in child protection, DSS workers and supervisors want to consistently expand and hone their abilities, and the Center is ready to help them.

The Center has launched a series of trainings designed to help child welfare supervisors and workers build upon current knowledge and hone their skills in a peer-to-peer learning environment. Lenora Reese, Senior Manager for Leadership Development says, “The in-service trainings help employees improve and solidify their competency and confidence in terms of casework practice.” Rita Martin, Child Welfare Training Supervisor, also points out that the trainings “provide workers an opportunity to bring their current cases for practice.” Workshopping current cases can help participants apply best practices to real life situations, which kick starts the use of new skills right away in a supportive environment.

The county-based training topics include:

•    Safety planning
•    Behavioral objectives
•    Self-care
•    Documentation
•    Signs of Safety

Bringing content from Child Welfare Basic into the county offices, Martin explains, “gives us an opportunity to go directly to the county and that office, so the training is specific to the needs of that office.” Targeted training means immediate benefit for each office and higher participant engagement since their concerns are addressed right away.

Mixing supervisors and workers in one training also has great benefits, since the two populations are often trained separately. Donna Privette, a Training Development Director in leadership, has helped bring the leadership perspective to these trainings and calls them “a rare opportunity to create a dialogue between workers and supervisors about applying best practices.” Here, the two groups can talk to each other in a training context, which allows exploration and solution-finding. Reese agrees: “Supervisors have an opportunity to coach, model, and mentor around the practice outcomes they want to see their staff achieve.” Ultimately, co-training can help an office function better as a whole.

Already, delivering skill-based training in the counties has been effective. Tacita Sumter, a Training Development Director in child welfare, has seen that “Supervisors are interested in knowing what the workers are learning in training so when they communicate with their workers they can understand their viewpoint and be able to coach them better.”

Creating these trainings and opening up a space for worker-supervisor dialogue is a Center method that better enables DSS to serve the vulnerable children of our state. 

jessica1On September 16, the Center assisted the South Carolina Department of Social Services in hosting the third regional Community Collaboration (C2) meeting to improve services for vulnerable adults. The purpose of C2 is to bring about community-wide networking and collaboration between agencies, organizations, and individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable adults.

Previous C2 meetings have been held in the Midlands and the Upstate, and the September meeting was the first for the Low Country. Adult Protective Service workers from DSS, members of Law Enforcement, representatives from the Department of Disability and Special Needs, hospital workers, and adult health care staff, from the city of Charleston and surrounding counties came together to share their stories, challenges, and expertise with the hope of inspiring and equipping each other to be better advocates for vulnerable adults.

One of the highlights of the day was a panel discussion, which included:

•    Donna German, Victim’s Advocate, Mt. Pleasant Police Department
•    Sonya Jenkins, Clinic Director, Charleston Mental Health Center
•    Honorable Mary Blunt, Probate Judge, Dorchester County Probate Court
•    Rufus Britt, District 2 Director, Department of Disabilities and Special Needs
•    Rhonda Ritchie, Service Coordinator, Department of Disabilities and Special Needs

Panelists presented valuable information concerning the services their organization provides for vulnerable adults and also shared their passion for working with vulnerable adults. Panel members graciously offered themselves as a resource for those working in the trenches.

James Randolph, a program manager at the Center, summed up what the entire room was feeling when he said, “Having everyone in the room is not about doing a better job. Having everybody in the room is about being able to do the job right.”

Jessica Hanak-Coulter, Director of the Adult Advocacy Division at DSS, ended the day by introducing the new vision statement for Adult Protective Services: “Safe and respectful support that maintains dignity and self-worth.” With intention and precision, the agency has crafted an ideology that will serve as a banner and a guide for Adult Protective Services and those who answer the call to partner with them in their mission to care for the vulnerable adults of South Carolina.

deanfarewellFew University employees can say a college dean literally put a roof over their heads. Center staff can, thanks to Dr. Anna Scheyett, Dean of the College of Social Work at UofSC, who worked to channel University funds toward putting a new roof on the historic Benson Building, where many Center staff work.

In honor of Scheyett and all she has done for the Center, employees gathered at Huger Street for a reception on Friday, April 22. The reception was also a way of saying goodbye to Scheyett, who will be starting a new job at the University of Georgia (UGA) as Dean of the School of Social Work this summer.

Black, white, and red (UGA colors) decked the Huger Street building’s interior, and Center staff brought food. Info Design shared a slide show with images of Scheyett during her career at USC. Mixing humor and pathos, the final slide said, “We’ll never pull for Georgia, but we’ll always pull for you.”

Several Center staff provided entertainment. Darlene Jones-Jack, who earned her MSW from UofSC, recited her poem “Why I Became a Social Worker” and gave Scheyett a framed copy. Maria Beery, who works in HABLA (and has an MA in opera from UofSC) sang two songs, one in Spanish (translated “Always in My Heart”) and one in English (“Aloha Means Farewell”). A group of QA workers, led by Denetra White-Washington, sang “Midnight Train to Georgia,” replacing certain words and phrases to make an already appropriate tune even more to the point. Finally, Blake Targonski, UofSC student and administrative assistant at Benson, performed “Georgia on My Mind” on his trumpet. Toward the end of the event, Interim Director Cindy Flynn presented Scheyett with money raised by Center staff for a scholarship the Dean supports.

Less than a week after the event, Scheyett sent a handwritten note to the Center, thanking everyone for what they did. Wrote Scheyett, “The food was amazing, the slide show was great, the poem was special, and y’all would be clever enough to find Georgia songs for entertainment.” Best wishes to Scheyett as she enters the next phase of her career.

ritaaceIn July, Rita Martin participated in a statewide initiative sponsored by the Children’s Trust to prevent and address Adverse Childhood Experiences, a major public health issue across the United States. ACEs are traumatic events during a child’s life, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and homelessness. A relationship exists between ACEs and negative health and well-being outcomes as an adult, which makes ACEs an important part of child welfare practice. To increase awareness of ACEs, Children’s Trust brought nationally known ACE trainers Laura Porter and Dr. Robert Anda to South Carolina to train a group of 30 individuals from across a wide range of fields, including child advocacy, business, education, faith, health care, juvenile justice, and child welfare. Martin represented the Center in this training.

With over 15 years of child welfare experience, Martin currently serves as the manager of the child welfare trainers at the Center. Thus, she is in the unique position of being able to infuse the ACEs material into many areas, both at the Center and at the Department of Social Services.

In September, Martin and Megan Branham, with the Children’s Trust, delivered the ACEs training to staff here at the Center, in order to inform all center practice with the latest ACEs best practices. Louisa Vann, a Center research associate who attended the training, said, “The training directly relates to my work at the Center as I interview youth transitioning out of foster care. ACEs training reiterates the need to take trauma into consideration when working with children and youth.”

The goal of the Children’s Trust initiative is to share accurate information across the state about the prevalence of ACEs and the effects that these adverse childhood experiences have on future health and well-being. The Center will take that information and strengthen our projects and trainings with it.

Martin says of the ACEs initiative, “I am excited about the efforts being made in South Carolina to become proactive, spread the word, and encourage the community to TAKE ACTION towards prevention and using the ACEs training as a vehicle to do so.”

gang“What does a gang-affiliated neighborhood look like?” This is a question a Child Welfare training participant asked Stephanie Payne, Training and Development Director for Child Welfare at the Center. Payne realized then that, while she knew about gangs and had worked in the field for years as a case worker, the times had changed and she needed to know more. So in May Payne organized a training on gangs in South Carolina for the Child Welfare Training Unit.

Currently, there are 1.4 million gang members in the United States. Of these, 3,249 reside in South Carolina, and this number only includes those who have been documented. There are more than 500 active gangs across the state.

These statistics are more than numbers to Lt. Rafael Gonzalez, an Investigator with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and an Assistant Commander of the Gang Task Force. Gonzalez facilitated the Gang Awareness training at the Children’s Center. According to the Department website, the Gang Task Force works to “eradicate gang activity through expanding the knowledge of the Citizen, Law Enforcement, Teachers and School Administrators.”

Throughout the training, Gonzalez reiterated something a gang leader once said in response to the question, “Why do kids join gangs?” Said the gang leader, “We love them more.” Gonzalez, a father, said that this hurts him deeply and inspires him in his work to help young people abandon the gang lifestyle and help parents be more effective in looking out for their children.

Ultimately, Payne said that the purpose of the training was three-fold: 1) to help increase worker safety, 2) to identify services to help children who are involved with or affected by gangs, and 3) to promote personal awareness. Thanks to Gonzalez, Child Welfare trainers are better equipped to help do all three.

mcknightThe South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) has implemented a new direction with foster parenting. DSS’ recruitment efforts include retaining current resource family homes and increasing the number of homes throughout the state. DSS is also striving to recruit families who are willing to assist both children and birth families. The Center is collaborating with DSS to help the agency reach its goals.

Recruiting resource parents begins with retention. To do this, DSS has created the Regional Resource Family Support Unit. According to Beth Mullins, Director of the Support Units, “These units will play a critical role in ensuring resource families have the tools and knowledge they need to make the foster care experience the best it can be for their own family, and especially for the children that they will care for in their homes.” The Center and DSS have developed the Supporting Resource Families training to explain the role of the support units and the many ways they can offer assistance and reassurance to resource families.

Along with the Supporting Resource Families training, the Center and DSS have developed the Shared Parenting training to reflect the shift in resource family recruitment. As Beth Mullins explains, “We are being more intentional in our recruitment. That means we are recruiting resource families who better serve the children’s needs: geographically, socially, and therapeutically.”

The Shared Parenting training further emphasizes a need for foster families to act as resources and to serve as a support to both the children in care and to the birth families. Carla Tunnell, a DSS Performance Coach and a trainer of Shared Parenting, explains the benefit of this training: “The Shared Parenting training can encourage everyone involved in a DSS foster care case to work as a team and to ultimately take part in the reunification process.”      

In addition to training, the Center has been instrumental in helping DSS create a unified recruitment campaign. According to Ginger Cassell, a Multimedia Developer with the Center’s Information Design team, “We are designing and producing all types of collateral materials to help DSS with its foster care recruitment efforts across the state.” These materials include flyers, brochures, postcards, displays, and a variety of promotional items like t-shirts, cups, and key chains.

DSS’ new approach to recruitment has a direct impact on the welfare of children in South Carolina. According to Deborah McKnight, a resource parent for thirty years who has parented over 100 children, becoming a resource parent can also affect more than just the children in care: “I think it's important for people to become foster parents to bring about a change. We're trying to bring about a change in ourselves and we want to bring a change in our society. If we can make a difference in that child’s life, then we can make a difference in the future.”

reeseawardCongratulations to Lenora Reese for earning the 2016 UofSC College of Social Work Alumnus of the Year distinction. Lenora is being honored for her outstanding work in social services.

“Lenora has been an advocate for underserved populations and a ‘change agent’ in every organization with which she has been affiliated,” says Katrina Spigner, CEO of Re-Source Solutions, who nominated Lenora for the award.

After 13 years as a Regional Team Leader for the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), Lenora joined the Center in 2015. As s senior program manager, Lenora and her team collaborate with SCDSS to create numerous leadership trainings including the Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS), Nuts and Bolts, and most recently the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM). These trainings provide the leadership skills needed to enhance the work SCDSS Human Services and Economic Services staff conduct daily.

 With her humility and strong work ethic, Lenora embodies the desired characteristics of an outstanding social worker and community organizer. “Lenora is the most passionate and driven professional I have worked with in social services,” says M. Lauren Hobbs, Department of Social Services.

This award showcases Lenora’s compassion for the work our partners do and her dedication toward enriching the lives of others. Thank you, Lenora, for your commitment to improving social services in the state of South Carolina.

kinshipWhen a child is removed from their home for safety and goes not to foster care but to a relative or family friend, they enter what’s known as Kinship Care, a practice as old as human society. Driven by our mission to support best practices in child welfare, the Center’s Information Design team designed and produced an online training to alert DSS workers to a series of important enhancements to the growing practice of Kinship Care in South Carolina. And, in order to more fully engage DSS staff, the Center welcomed DSS Kinship Care Coordinator Chasity Washington into the studio to provide narration for the training.

SCDSS, in a nationwide trend, sees Kinship Care as a best practice when children must leave their homes. In fact, our state has seen an 18% increase in kinship placements in the last year alone, which is a sign that children in danger are going to people they already know and trust. Even when foster families are loving and welcoming, removal is traumatic for children. So SCDSS has added some enhancements workers and caregivers can use to strengthen Kinship Care.
The Center’s training introduced an array of enhancements to state practice.

First, DSS has moved away from using the term “Alternative Caregiver” to Kinship Caregiver. The word “kinship” better expresses the stability and comfort a child can draw from care by someone they know and trust. And when Caregivers are acknowledged as “kin” by DSS, they are better able to see their own value and know themselves to be a crucial part of a child’s network of support.

Next, there are now Kinship Care Coordinators in all regions of the state. These Coordinators can help workers or Kinship Caregivers find needed resources for their children: financial, social and emotional supports differ around the state so the Coordinators always know where to turn.

The training also showed workers new forms that help Kinship Caregivers and biological parents clearly understand what’s expected of them and what’s appropriate, making the time in Kinship Care easier while parents make their choices about working towards reunification.

Finally, DSS’s documentation system, CAPSS, has many added enhancements to help keep children safe and to gather data that can be used to improve Kinship Care experiences in the future. South Carolina is leading the way in kinship data gathering and analysis; other states may be able to use South Carolina’s data to see trends they also can plan for. The Center also hopes to use Kinship data to help DSS keep its practice at the cutting edge of child protective services.

The Center also supports the practice of Kinship Care with our Kinship Care website, which is full of multimedia resources for community members who may be new to Kinship Care. This vital information can help Kinship Care go more smoothly and keep children safe and thriving in lifelong families.


nytdgoallmayEarly one morning in the Benson Building, a line of young people stood in fresh new tee-shirts, reading scripts and mumbling their lines to each other. They all were members of two outstanding initiatives that incorporate youth voice into foster care practice in South Carolina: SCDSS’s State Youth Advisory Board, Go Out and Learn Life (GOALL), and the panel SC NYTD Youth Voice. When thinking of ways to improve and strengthen our state’s foster care system, who better to contribute ideas than the people the system serves? The Center helps broadcast their voices!

The young actors-for-a-day all have foster care experience; some for short periods and others for much of their lives. The Center's Information Design team had sets ready to capture the youth hamming it up to create recruitment videos to bring new youth leadership to the groups.

In all, the Center created three videos starring these youth. GOALL's Facilitator, Tessa Adams, waxed enthusiastic about using the videos for recruitment and awareness. "I'm so excited to be able to share GOALL's message and purpose in this medium," she said. "I can embed the videos in email when I reach out to partners or allies. I can send them to youth who are interested in joining and want more information. They can enjoy these videos and not only have a better idea of the program, they can be better prepared to ask me questions during an interview."

The videos will also be used publicly at conferences state-wide, bringing awareness about the programs to potential and current partners. They can also prompt group leaders to nominate youth they think would bring vitality and leadership to the programs. "These programs are so important because they make sure the voice of youth in foster care is heard and used to improve the system. This kind of effective outreach helps make foster care better for generations to come," Adams affirms.

The Center’s Training, Curriculum, and Information Design staff turned out in force on August 18-19, along with key stakeholders, for a two-day training in the SAM development model in order to create stronger, memorable, more siteseffective training in person and online.

The SAM, or Successive Approximation Model , method was created by Michael Allen and Richard Sites, of the Allen Interactions firm, and relies on early meetings with a diverse group of brainstormers who create iterative prototypes. These “Savvy Starts” with iterative prototyping challenge designers to find the best way to train a topic before investing capital and time in production.

Sites came to Columbia and led an engaging and challenging training that has energized the staff. Curriculum writer Casey Carroll says, “I’m excited about the higher levels of learning that we’ll be able to facilitate with closer collaboration in early stages of development.”

In fact, just days after the training, staff are already making use of what they learned. A fundamental principle of the method is to focus training on situating training in the context in which workers do their jobs. As trainer and author Richard Sites explained, it makes the training more memorable and better prepares the worker for fieldwork.

After learning this, trainer Tacita Sumter scrapped her first plans for a training and started afresh, by basing scenarios in the context the trainees would be acting in: “Using context gave me a good starting point―it brought me from a wide view down to the worker’s perspective in the field. What do they need to do? I moved from just imparting knowledge to giving them choices to make and actions to take. I feel like it’s more likely they’ll know what to do when they get out in the field―because they’ve done it already in training.”

The Center exists to support those who help children and families and we welcome the chance to grow and extend our effectiveness to further our mission. We see the SAM method as a big part of keeping us at the cutting edge of training development and implementation.

Center Interim Director Cindy Flynn says of the new method: “Our goal is for participants to take the skills they learn during training and immediately apply them to their work. This new model of instructional design enables us to produce that type of training because it really focuses on learner behavior in the workplace.”

dssgrad 9648This month we would like highlight the work of two of the Center’s graduate assistants working at SCDSS’s Constituent Services Department. Briannea Hastie and Shayla Evans, both second-years at the College of Social Work, have been with the agency since the spring semester of 2015. Both graduate assistants regularly interface with clients whose families are in crisis, and in many respects, Briannea and Shayla are rare voices of hope for those who call in.

Constituent Services helps SCDSS clients access local services, and takes on the critical role of easing the flow of communication between clients and county offices. Briannea and Shayla have expressed that the two most important skills that they have acquired during their tenure at the agency are patience and empathy, and to perform with the grace and competence that they demonstrate daily means having a healthy dose of each. Briannea and Shayla agree that while the job is certainly challenging, it is rewarding, and they are excited to employ their expertise as they pursue careers in public health and medicine.  

Marilyn Matheus, the Director of Public Information and Media Relations, explained that graduate assistants can gain essential career-building experience from working with the agency: “If individuals pursuing graduate degrees in social work are truly interested in hands-on experience, they should look at an agency like DSS. There are a number of different agencies we interface with who do a lot of social work-type of services.”

Pam Bryant, the current Director of Constituent Services, explains that Briannea and Shayla “have not been part of menial, unrelated tasks—just the opposite. They have been involved in the most important part of our day-to-day work and have been a real asset to us.” Besides having access to hands-on experience and networking opportunities, Briannea and Shayla have become part of a close-knit team. Briannea even notes that the unit has become “like a family.”

Briannea and Shayla, both of whom graduate with their Master of Social Work degrees in May, have a lot to look forward to: Briannea wants to serve the community by getting involved in hospice care, and Shayla dreams of working in healthcare. The Center would like to extend its deepest congratulations to both graduate assistants for their dedication to South Carolina’s children and families.

natrishaThe Quality Assurance team at the Center is preparing vigorously for the federal Child and Family Service Review coming up in 2017. Quality Assurance reviews cases across the state to ensure that children and their families receive needed services throughout their involvement with the South Carolina Department of Social Services. To conduct the reviews, the team uses the federal set of guidelines called the “On-Site Review Instrument.”

The instrument measures three overarching outcomes to ensure the physical and emotional health of children in agency custody: safety, permanency, and well-being. Eneida Blugh, who has participated in Child and Family Services Reviews since 2001, has worked closely with the Center to instruct our Quality Assurance staff on how to apply the guidelines. The Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently refined the instrument from 23 items to 18, which reviewers rate individually to determine safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. These items help Quality Assurance reviewers determine specific areas where counties perform well, and where counties can improve.

The Quality Assurance team has completed rigorous training to employ the new instrument. Our Quality Assurance program managers, Janel Mitnaul and Natrisha Starr, trained our veteran staff on the new guidelines. The Center has also developed its own training to deliver to new Quality Assurance reviewers, which has been reviewed and approved by the Children’s Bureau.

Janel explains why these changes are so critical: “The identification of strengths and weaknesses in the delivery of services lets us know where we need to change practice, or put new services in place to bring about better outcomes for children and families.”

midlandscrpsummit 9901“It takes everyone to make our community better…to enhance the lives of children and their families. Everyone can play a part, and everyone can serve,” Kimberly Janha observed while working on the SC Midlands Citizen Review Panel (CRP). In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the CRP organized a Volunteer Summit on April 21st at Columbia College to encourage community participation and to promote volunteer opportunities.

Kayla Mallet, Outreach Committee Chair for CRP, was also inspired by her work on the panel and played an integral part in the creation of this event. “For me, this event was an opportunity to connect people and to give them a clearinghouse of agencies who work on behalf of children,” Mallet explained.  

The Volunteer Summit showcased information tables from multiple agencies across the Midlands and included a panel discussion moderated by WLTX 19’s Mary Sturgill with representatives from the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Guardian Ad Litem, National Association of Social Workers, South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ), and CRP.

The panel discussed the importance of creating community partnerships through volunteering and collaboration. “People often talk about how child welfare is everyone’s business, not just SCDSS,” explained Cheryl Worrell, the Center’s Program Manager for Community Initiatives and the Midlands CRP Facilitator. The panel demonstrated this concept by discussing what volunteers do to transform the lives of children and families in the community. Volunteers become foster parents, mentor children, advocate for children in court, and help to create child welfare policies.  

The Volunteer Summit brought together community organizations and allowed prospective volunteers a chance to see the various ways they can serve children and families. Mary Sturgill ended the event with an inspiring message to all in attendance: “You never know what small thing you do for a child that will impact that child forever.”  

For more information on some of the volunteer opportunities within your community, click on the links below:

•    Able SC http://www.able-sc.org/
•    Acts Metro http://actsmetro.org/
•    Cass Elias McCarter, Guardian Ad Litem Program http://scgal.org/state/index.html
•    Court Appointed Special Advocates http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301309/k.9D58/Volunteering.htm
•    Dickerson Children’s Advocacy Center http://www.dickersoncac.org/
•    Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands http://www.gssc-mm.org/
•    Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration Program http://www.state.sc.us/djj/pdfs/juvenile-arbitration-program.pdf
•    National Association of Social Workers http://www.scnasw.org/
•    Ronald McDonald House Charities of Columbia, SC http://rmhcofcolumbia.org/
•    SAFY http://www.safy.org/
•    SC Midlands Citizen Review Panel http://sccrp.sc.edu/
•    SC Youth Challenge http://scyouthchallenge.com/
•    Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands https://www.stsm.org/
•    Sistercare http://sistercare.org/
•    South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice http://www.state.sc.us/djj/volunteer.php
•    South Carolina Department of Social Services https://dss.sc.gov/content/providers/foster.aspx
•    South Carolina MENTOR http://www.sc-mentor.com/welcome.aspx
•    South Carolina Youth Advocate Program https://www.scyap.com/
•    St. Lawrence Place http://www.stlawrenceplace.org/
•    Sowing Seeds into the Midlands http://www.sowingseedsmidlands.org/

osaIt’s often a sad truism that a person’s doctor knows their health least because a doctor sees patients in such long intervals. But what if caregivers had the medical knowledge to be the eyes and ears of the doctor, all the time?

That’s what the new Home Care Specialist (HCS) Training, from the Office of the Study of Aging at UofSC, aims to do. Created and developed by Carol Cornman and Courtney Davis, HCS training is designed for Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) who are already in the homes of the elderly, giving them daily personal care. The training gives basic but targeted medical knowledge to PCAs, who could alert medical teams for preventative care. The trained Home Care Specialists can also help keep clients on track with their personal Plan of Care to help keep them healthy. This way, clients can avoid preventable acute medical conditions and stay safely and comfortably at home, where they want to be. Visits to the ER and hospitalizations are costly and traumatic; avoiding them when possible is a best practice in elder care.

The Center’s Information Design team worked closely with Cornman and Davis to develop thirteen highly focused modules and two videos that would, over time and on demand, teach PCAs to recognize, record, and report warning signs of impending acute health episodes. The two videos demonstrate the person-centered philosophy of good home care. The learner can take the online modules at their own pace. If they pass ten of the thirteen modules, they receive the Home Care Specialist Certification.

Topics the modules cover are the most common ailments our society experiences, which PCAs see frequently in their clientele: congestive heart failure, dehydration, dementia, urinary tract infections, and falls, among others. This training isn’t med school, but it is a solid foundation in recognizing warning signs that, if caught early, can greatly improve a client’s quality, and even length, of life.

Claire Houle, a writer who worked on the project, believes the training series to be a strong contribution to the life of the community: “By the time I finished drafting the module on dehydration, I understood that the seriousness of the condition is greater than I had ever suspected. I would never have guessed that dehydration can look like dementia! I was really impressed by how practical, engaging, and instantly actionable the modules were. I think this can reach and improve a lot of lives.”

The online training is scheduled to go live in the Fall of 2015 linking from the Office of the Study of Aging website.

Through the years, Janel Mitnaul has witnessed a shift in treatment philosophy at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM). When she began leading groups in mitnaulJ 95701998, the focus was on treating the individual. More trauma-focused now, STSM provides a complete array of services, including initial crisis intervention, individual counseling, and finally, group work. Mitnaul says working in groups helps victims see that they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing.

Last month, Mitnaul, a Program Manager in Quality Assurance at the Center, won the 2016 Community Partner of the Year award from STSM. This award is given every year to a person or an organization that works to stop sexual violence and help survivors recover from sexual trauma. Mitnaul received the award at the annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event on Thursday, April 14, 2016, on the steps of the South Carolina State House.

Bahiyyi Young, Group Services Coordinator at STSM, nominated Mitnaul for the award. She says Mitnaul, who is now a lead group facilitator, “is an asset without whom the Groups Program would struggle mightily. Clients comment on Janel’s skill, compassion, and sincerity, and facilitators who have been trained by her find her to be knowledgeable and eager to teach.”

When asked why her work at STSM is important to her, Mitnaul says her answer is “two-fold: I enjoy working with survivors. With groups, I can work with several people at the same time. Working with groups also lets me stay in tune with my clinical skills” (Mitnaul has her BSW, MSW, and LMSW).

Brenda J. Amedee, Senior Program Manager in Quality Assurance, speaks for all of us at the Center when she says we “are very proud of Janel and feel honored to have her as a member of our Quality Assurance Team.”

darleneThe Center is pleased to congratulate Darlene Jones-Jack for her recent publication Be Inspired Every Day: 31 Poetic Inspirations for Your Soul. The book is a self-published collection of poems that Darlene wrote to help others realize their full potential.

To kick off the collection’s release, Brookland Baptist Church hosted an event in August where Darlene read three selected poems to a live audience. Each reading was accompanied by a praise dance, choreographed and performed by Darlene’s daughter and five nieces to illustrate the inspirational messages.

According to Darlene, Be Inspired is written for anyone “in need of finding their purpose,” and if there’s one thing she wants her readership to take away, it is that regardless of race or class, everyone has meaning. What readers quickly discover is that Be Inspired is not just any collection of poems; it is an illustrated devotional that invites readers to meditate on their purpose by offering them space to write self-reflections.

Darlene, who has been writing poetry since childhood, says, “This project was important to me because I believe that everyone has the ability to be successful. You just have to discover what your gifts and talents are, and your gifts and talents will lead you to your purpose. And your purpose will lead you to your success.”  

To purchase your very own copy of Be Inspired, please visit justkeepwalking.com.

pinwheelsClear and windy, Tuesday, April 5, was a perfect day for spinning pinwheels in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Participants made the most of the early spring afternoon, planting dozens of blue and silver pinwheels in front of the Benson and Huger Street buildings.

Interim Director Cindy Flynn, who participated, notes that “The pinwheel is the official symbol of child abuse prevention for Prevent Child Abuse America. It represents a healthy, happy childhood. Prevent Child Abuse America is hoping that the pinwheels will become a universal symbol raising awareness in communities across the country that we all need to do our part to stop child abuse and neglect from occurring.”

For HABLA Program Coordinator Kathia Valverde, who also participated, the gesture is imbued with personal significance: “I’m very glad that something is being done in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month,” she says. “It means a lot to me, because it’s personal. I’m a survivor.”

The Center is one of many organizations across the country to participate in this annual public awareness campaign, which began as a grassroots initiative in several states and crystallized into a national campaign in 2008.

The Center strongly supports the active prevention of child abuse in South Carolina and nationwide, and plans to participate in the campaign each April in the years to come.

If you would like to donate to the campaign or learn more about it, please visit the Prevent Child Abuse America website.

nickersonAmber Nickerson is an MSW student and Graduate Assistant here at the Center, but she’s making an impact as far away as California and Washington. That’s the farthest her “Charleston Strong” t-shirts will travel when they’re shipped.

Following the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, Amber decided she needed to do something to help. Though raising money for those affected seemed a worthy goal, Amber also wanted to make sure to encourage conversation about racism, love, and hate in our communities. “T-shirts are conversation-starters,” says Amber, pointing out that seeing a positive message on a t-shirt can make the wearer seem more approachable, which can lead to a conversation with a stranger, which in turn helps build community.

Her t-shirt fundraiser has already exceeded her goal by raising over $1000, but Amber insists that her project is about “raising awareness and spreading information.” The image of hands forming a heart spoke to her, and she coupled it with bright teal to make the message “pop.” She hopes that people all over the nation will wear the shirt and spread the word of love, not hate.

Amber received multiple requests from strangers who did not get the chance to buy t-shirts in the first printing, so she has opened the sale back up again. “Charleston Strong” shirts can be purchased for a limited time here:


safezoneCasey Carroll, a curriculum writer, has coordinated with Center leadership to host a Safe Zone training for Center staff. Casey recently became Safe Zone-certified through the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), which provides campus-wide training, mentorship, and advocacy opportunities for volunteers who want to foster a more welcoming, culturally diverse university.

The Safe Zone training is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to learn about the concerns confronting the *LGBTQ community, and the vast array of community resources available to meet the needs of LGBTQ individuals. During the three-hour interactive workshop, participants can also expect to develop strategies to cultivate “safe spaces” for those who may otherwise feel at risk of discrimination.  

Casey has already trained UofSC students on two occasions, and plans to assist with a third workshop for Center staff on April 8th. When asked why he has taken the initiative to bring Safe Zone training to the Center, Casey explained, “I wanted to become certified to improve my ability as an instructional designer to include culturally competent material in our trainings, and now Center staff will have an opportunity to discover new ways of teaching these important concepts to our participants.”  

To learn more about Safe Zone training, please visit: https://www.sa.sc.edu/omsa/safezone/.

*The acronym LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning/Queer.

On May 20th and 21st, The Center for Child and Family Studies partnered with SCDSS Economic Services to present the Economic Services Case Management Conference for case managers and supervisors from around the state. The James7279conference featured presentations by UofSC trainers, DSS leaders, and a panel of representatives from community partners including the Department of Probation, Parole, Pardon Services, the Vocational Rehabilitation Department, and the Department of Mental Health. Topics included time management, professionalism, and dealing with generational differences in the workplace.

The goal of the conference was to provide case managers and supervisors the opportunity to learn about any policy changes as well as best practices. CCFS trainer Cheryl Gant said, “What I hope the participants take away is how they can better serve the clients, and how they can keep the clients’ best interests at heart. Even though we have policy and procedures, they must remember that at the end of the day, this is someone’s life that you are impacting.”

DSS participants and trainers alike also have the opportunity to make connections with colleagues that they may not regularly see. Ms. Gant values these connections, stating that presenting at conferences like this one “gives me an opportunity to see people that I haven’t seen in a long time, but at the same time I enjoy sharing my knowledge with those that will use it to help the clients that they serve.”

Jodi Hill-LillyStrong leadership gets the best results and the South Carolina Department of Social Services is further strengthening its new generation of leadership to help children and families with the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM), a national curriculum being implemented by USC and SCDSS. The goal is to empower leaders in the agency to lead with greater vision and enact real change within their teams and communities.

This training kicked off in January with an orientation session for the community leaders who have agreed to be coaches for the participants, led by two national level trainers who will be delivering the material, Jodi Hill-Lilly and Tricia Mosher.

A unique feature of the LAMM is the inclusion of coaches for participants. These coaches range from social work professionals and professors to business owners and leadership experts. Katrina Spigner of Re-Source Solutions, LLC is an experienced coach and social work professional who is serving as lead coach for the process. Ms. Spigner believes that the “coaching piece is the critical role to bridging between the day to day and reality, helping to connect what is happening every day to the future. Coaching helps the participants enlarge their perspective from a new vantage point.”

Katrina SpignerSpecifically, South Carolina is doing something new to this national curriculum by including coaches from areas other than social work. Trainer Jodi Hill-Lilly believes that one advantage of this training is the ability to create a common language about leadership and change throughout the agency. She said, “By including coaches from outside of the agency, it allows the community to share a common vision for the welfare of children and families.”

lenora7178“Ask the question!” Linda Love instructed the audience. Love, Social Services Director for the Catawba Indian Nation, was leading a session at the May DSS County Directors’ Forum, and she wanted to underscore the importance of asking families about Native American heritage at every stage of every case in order to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. “If you ask that question” and involve the tribe, she says, “then we know that the child is not being tucked away” and removed from their cultural identity.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed in 1978 in order to combat the problem of Indian children being removed from their families and cultures at a rate much higher than non-Indian children. The goal of ICWA is to protect the best interests of Indian children by strengthening their families and preserving links to their tribal communities. This is accomplished by keeping Indian families together whenever possible and involving the tribe in case proceedings. ICWA applies to all children who are members of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. Though there are 566 sovereign tribes recognized by the U.S. government, the Catawba Indian Nation is the only one in South Carolina.

Love thinks that many people simply don’t know about the Catawba, since the tribe is relatively small (current membership hovers around 3,000). She has high hopes for improving ICWA compliance and cultural competency, though, citing recent fruitful collaborations with the Children’s Law Center, the College of Social Work, and the Center for Child and Family Studies. Serving the Catawba “answers my calling as a social worker,” says Love, and she hopes to inspire others to increase their knowledge of ICWA and the Catawba.

heartwalkOn March 12th, 2016, the USC Heart Walk team will be joined by devoted members of the Center for the third year in a row. We’ll be walking to raise awareness about heart disease in the community and to raise money to improve heart health. As Center Interim Director Cindy Flynn points out, heart disease is one of South Carolina’s biggest killers, so the need is pressing. Walkers hope to help turn the tide through awareness of good prevention at home and more research to heal heart disease in progress and save lives.

Many walkers have a personal connection to the cause. AE Burnett is the Heart Walk coordinator for the Center and she understands the dangers of heart disease: “I lost my father to a heart attack when he was 42 and I was only one”, she says. Early deaths from heart disease often leave families feeling cheated of a full life together and that kind of loss can be a special motivation to get involved and prevent more early deaths.

The Center is glad to participate in community action and stand in solidarity with the university as a whole. Interim Director Flynn believes that Center participation in the annual Heart Walk is a fun and healthy way of showing our values of compassion and teamwork. And, she says, “It’s a fun way to contribute to a great cause – and it’s healthy! If you haven’t done it yet, come try it out. Bring your kids! I’ve walked every year since we began participating and plan on joining in again this year.”

To sign up or donate to the Center's team please visit the American Heart Association.

Michael Blue is stamping imaginary coins: George Washington on the quarter, to be exact. His fist hammers his palm: "Bam! George is facing right! Bam! George is facing left! Bam! George is upside down! Right?"

Blue answers himself: "No. George Washington is the same on every coin. The die strikes the same; it is consistent. Just like the character of a leader MUST be consistent."

Michael Blue, pastor and motivational speaker, spent a dynamic two hours with DSS County Directors at their April Forum, discussing credibility and leadership. Through a mixture of charismatic lecture, small group work, and introspective exercises, Blue challenged leaders to consciously consider their own biographies to help them connect their strengths with their leadership.

Blue identified a current nationwide "hunger for people of quality who take responsibility in leadership." Invoking stories from the Old Testament to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Blue explored the character of a leader. But, as his stories also illustrated, leaders cannot get so self-involved that they lose sight of the humanity of their employees. Maintaining the dignity of employees and empowering them to go beyond their usual boundaries is the greatest culmination of great leadership.

"Success," he claimed, "is incomplete if the successor does not succeed beyond his or her predecessor." So he urged the Directors to look to the future and start mentoring and building up "the next you."

Andrea Favor, Director of Lee County, found the morning inspiring and immediately useful: "It was great for the staff today. It gave us time for self-reflection and tools we can use right away. And he's truly a leader himself - that's his gift."

The standing ovation suggested the other Directors agreed.

psychotropic2A new training for DSS caseworkers on the use of psychotropic medication for children in care has launched. This training is important given growing concerns nationwide that children in foster care are being prescribed psychotropic medication at higher levels than children who are not in foster care. Statistics show that in South Carolina, nearly three out of four children in Intensive foster care take some form of psychotropic medication.

Since many children in foster care have experienced traumatic events, and since trauma often imitates symptoms of mental health disorders, diagnosing children in foster care can be a complex process. Nevertheless, according to Heather Williamson, a DSS regional clinical specialist, “caseworkers do not have to be mental health experts.” She says that this training is “designed to strengthen the advocacy, informed decision-making, and monitoring roles in casework practice to reduce inappropriate psychotropic use and to increase the use of psychosocial support that considers trauma and responsive care processes first.”

The training consists of an online portion and an in-person portion. Developed by the Center’s Information Design staff, the online portion consists of four interactive modules. Participants are required to complete these four interactive modules before the in-person training. The modules include live-action video written, directed, and shot by Information Design staff. The in-person training consists of intensive group discussion and role-play activities that help caseworkers hone skills they need in the field.

The training was developed through a collaboration between Center staff and DSS employees, including Williamson, consulting psychiatrists Dr. Anita Khetpal and Dr. Randy Spencer, and DSS Lead Clinical Specialist Tim Nix. The Center is proud to play a role in the development of this exciting and significant project and looks forward to working with DSS on similar projects in the future.

Asha Purohit is in an enviable position: before donning her cap and gown, she’s already secured employment in her field. Purohit joined the Center as a graduate assistant in 2012 and is receiving a joint Master’s degree in Social Work and Public Health.

She feels her work here at the Center has boosted her analytical and writing skills in a way that classes couldn’t, and she thinks those skills have made her more marketable. She was quickly snapped up by Protection and Advocacy, a non-profit that supports people with disabilities. With Protection and Advocacy, Purohit will help develop an outreach program and work with legal teams on case advocacy.

Her chief duty at the Center has been turning results from Quality Assurance reviews into quantitative data that can be delivered to DSS to help identify agency strengths and weaknesses. She has helped develop a coding guide so that the process will go smoothly even after she’s gone. During her last semester, she’s also enjoyed working on an article with Dr. Suzanne Sutphin. “Suzanne is awesome at giving opportunities for learning,” says Purohit.

Reflecting on starting here as a new graduate student, Purohit says that “at the Center, it was very clear that you were going to work, and you were going to learn,” and she is grateful for that valuable experience.

Before Vanessa Layton joined the Quality Assurance team last July, she worked as a case manager with DSS for 7 years. Yet, as Layton points out, reading the cases for a QA review can be just as painful and heartbreaking as working these cases: “We read these case files from DSS where children have been sexually abused, physically abused, physically neglected…just horrific stuff in these files and we just take it in.” This is the reason the Center’s Wellness Ambassador, Claire Houle, and QA’s Senior Program Manager, Brenda Amedee, worked together to create a vicarious trauma training for the QA staff.

“Someone who is an advocate is constantly being exposed to vicarious trauma. Workers need to be prepared and aware that hearing these types of things over and over can have a profound effect on the helper,” explained the vicarious trauma trainer Shannon Nix, Associate Director, Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention (SAVIP). In her training, she focused on the signs and the prevention of vicarious trauma.

Some symptoms of vicarious trauma can include irritability, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and a decrease in the quality of work. “People deal with trauma in different ways. It impacts everyone, but it impacts people differently,” Brenda Amedee explains. To prevent vicarious trauma from impacting people, Nix stresses the importance of having “positive support systems, healthy coping skills, and self-care.”

QA has implemented many of these prevention mechanisms in their “charging station.” This is a room “where someone can step away from a case, play puzzles and games, have a breather, and relax,” according to Amedee. This room is a safe place for the QA team to take a break and recharge before returning to read more cases. Claire Houle believes this “charging station” is “a brilliant way to nurture resilience at work. Leadership is creating not only a space for workers to quickly respond to high stress, but also de-stigmatize the need to take a break and protect themselves from harm. What a welcoming way to protect our humanity.”

Protecting ourselves is the essence of self-care. This means promoting a healthy lifestyle through exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, and being present in the moment. As Nix explains, “You have to make self-care a part of your daily schedule just like how we schedule meetings…It is a lot easier to tap into those skills when you are under duress if you have already created a routine of self-care.”

Creating a self-care routine may differ for everyone. Some people may need to redirect their thoughts and energy when stressed or traumatized into something else. The links below are just some ideas to take a quick break in order to maintain a healthy mindset when dealing with difficult situations:


Cute photos of sloths on Google



Katrina SpignerAt the April Human Services Supervisor Summit, held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, author and inspirational speaker Katrina Signer urged DSS supervisors to look within themselves to realize their best leadership. Authenticity, Spigner emphasized, is the key to truly bring all of one’s talents to the job.
Spigner feels that managers often “cover” themselves in many layers, socially and emotionally, in order to feel powerful. They may be worried about their authority or begin to lose track of the humanity of their employees as they seek to meet productivity goals. In a focused two hour exploration of “uncovering” authenticity, Spigner emphasized that self-reflection and attention to one’s own presence around employees can start supervisors on the way not only to better, more humane and effective supervision, but can also heal unhealthy work place culture that drives employees away.

Spigner spoke passionately about how workplace culture can become a difficult, unhappy place – and she placed the responsibility to heal that culture directly in the supervisors’ hands. When managers set a poor example, even if they are unknowingly being negative or showing favoritism, there’s little chance for success in a workplace, she explained. By uncovering their authentic selves and being honest and kind, supervisors can revolutionize their workplace and make it a place people are eager to come to, every morning.

Bringing speakers like Katrina Spigner to inspire and inform DSS leadership is an important way the Center is fulfilling its mission to build leadership capacity in its partner's infrastructure.

bensonhistoryThe Florence C. Benson Elementary School, where over half of the Center for Child and Family Studies’ staff are housed, was part of South Carolina’s unprecedented boom of public school buildings in the early 1950s. This boom brought greatly needed modern facilities to many desperately underserved areas of South Carolina, but was brought about by the state’s “equalization program,” a final attempt to keep in place the “separate but equal” racial division in public education.

The school opened in October of 1954, five months after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. The new schools helped many children in the state receive a better education, but at a high price: almost ten more years of complete segregation. In actual practice, South Carolina officials avoided any kind of desegregation until 1963 (SC Equal). But in spite of the often poisonous political environment of those years, the Benson school flourished as a hub of education in the local black community.

The Benson School, originally called The Wheeler Hill Elementary School for Negroes, was an important arrival to the neighborhood. It was considered a “modern and up-to-date building” that was distinguished by the novel use of “bright colors selected to appeal to youngsters of elementary school age” such as “rose, green, blue and cream,” (The State 10.01.54). It also had its own “cafetorium,” a large lunchroom that doubled as an auditorium. The previous school had not had such a space and so all school-wide gatherings had been held outside. Alexzena Irving Furgess, a fourth-grader when the school opened, later said, “There was a sense of pride that everybody at Wheeler Hill felt at the time. It was the sense of having something of our own.” (The State 2.9.2010).  

The school was renamed in 1958 following the death of beloved teacher Florence Corinne Benson. Benson was a devoted teacher in the black community, having taught in Columbia schools since 1916: at Booker T. Washington High School, Saxon School, and then Wheeler Hill.

A dip into the Benson School’s life in the community shows it to be a hub for the needs of a community in a changing world. In addition to its education of first through sixth graders during the day, Benson would go on to host needed community initiatives and enrichment programs over the years.

Beginning in 1962, the school began registering people for a long-running adult education program, designed to help those over 18 earn their high school diplomas in the evenings. Since the races were still separated by law, Benson was the registration point for all black adults who sought education. In November of 1962, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the school offered the community civil defense courses to teach survival during a nuclear strike. Over the years, the school also hosted regional spelling bees and public health programs such as polio vaccinations and heart defect screening for children. It was a voter registration location and was later be the site for auditions for local theater companies.

Benson, like other Columbia schools, integrated slowly after the first buses of white children arrived from Olympia in 1969. In 1971, the school was still 73% black, but by 1975, that percentage had reversed itself as black families moved out of the neighborhood.

In 1972, the school was refashioned as the first “model school” in South Carolina, combining grades in pairs and offering more opportunity for self-directed learning than public schools had previously offered. The program would later extend to other schools around the state. Benson School enjoyed several years of note and success with the program.

However, attendance continued to fall as the university expanded and families moved out. In January of 1976, over protests of community parents, the school district voted to close Benson and divide its students by race to help further integrate other district schools.

In 1978, after the building had stood empty for two years, USC entered into a contract with Richland School District One wherein the university would renovate the interior for office and labs to temporarily house the Psychology Department, which had been displaced by a fire. Other members of the School of Public Health also maintained offices and labs there. The University finally purchased Benson outright for $1.1 million in 1987.

The Center for Child and Family Studies moved into Benson in 1996 and we have made our home here since.

The Benson Building was briefly slated for demolition by the University in 2008, but plans were put on hold due to the onset of the Great Recession. Thanks to two graduate students in the History Department, Rebekah Dobrasko and Louis Venters, who were studying South Carolina’s equalization schools, the building was documented and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

Rising out of a contradictory time of both community pride and bitter segregation, the building has held the life of the community for many decades, and particularly was the center of the lives of children and families as it educated, vaccinated, and registered. Now, we are still a Center that continues Benson’s work: supporting children and families and the communities in which they live.

Print sources:
Holleman, Joey. The State. 9 Feb. 2010. A1, A8.

Dobrasko, Rebekah. “Upholding ‘Separate But Equal’: South Carolina’s School Equalization Program.” 2005. LC 213.23.C44D63.2005

recruitmentIt’s springtime for SCDSS: a new director, the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and now a massive recruitment campaign for the hundreds of jobs recently approved by the legislature mean that new opportunities are on every horizon.

DSS is revitalizing its workforce with more than one hundred new caseworker positions, who are the mainstay of child and adult welfare in our state. The agency is also creating a new position for experienced Child Welfare workers and a Caseworker Assistant position to give frontline workers administrative and field support. DSS is drawing from many levels of education and location to realize its mission of safe and thriving children and families. DSS is ready to fill these positions and called on the Center to help begin their recruitment campaign.

DSS is beginning its campaign by strengthening connections with the state’s excellent Social Work degree programs, including USC’s renown College of Social Work. DSS Deputy Director Jessica Hanak-Coulter personally came to campus to meet with COSW leadership. She hopes that they can aid in identifying new graduates of their program who can bring their best skills to the crucial task of keeping South Carolina’s children and vulnerable adults safe and thriving.

With support from the Center’s Information Design team in content and graphic design, DSS sent out letters to deans of social work programs across the state, making first contact with hundreds of talented future social workers. The Center also wrote and designed recruitment materials to help show the perfect alignment of DSS’s mission with the values that bring people to social work: a desire to help those who have no other recourse, the sense of responsibility to the community and the satisfaction of being of material use to other people every day.

The Center’s mission is to enhance the capacity of organizations who serve children and families. Helping bring the best and get brightest to DSS is an important way the Center supports the largest organization of helpers in the state.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we reached out to Dr. Suzanne Sutphin, a Research Assistant Professor at the Center, to learn more about the value of mentorship. Dr. Sutphin oversees all Quality Assurance data and training evaluations across the state, and relies on the hard work of her Graduate Assistants (GAs) to fulfill the Research Team’s objective, which is to gather data that informs decision-making at DSS as the agency strives to continuously improve its service to children and families.

The Research Team is responsible for everything data at the Center: they develop all Center training and conference evaluations, analyze Quality Assurance review data for counties across the state, and write data-driven reports. The team’s GAs are critical to these functions.

During their time at the Center, Research GAs are typically completing their degrees in social work or a related field, and are responsible for a number of tasks, from compiling reports to analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. Dr. Sutphin collaborates closely with her GAs to ensure the quality and accuracy of all produced materials.

The GAs are not only beneficial to the Center, but are guaranteed numerous opportunities for their own professional development. For example, GAs learn how to use analytic software like SPSS and NVivo, employ various analysis methods, and develop strong working relationships with their colleagues. Also, GAs who are interested in child welfare get a birds-eye view of what’s happening across the counties, and this experience is particularly valuable for those who will go on to work for DSS after they graduate.

As a mentor, Dr. Sutphin tries to cultivate the kinds of relationships with her GAs where mentorship continues beyond their time at the Center. And her mentoring philosophy has paid off—former GAs regularly turn to her for advice, from continuing education to future careers.

When asked what she would like to share with her GAs, Dr. Sutphin said, “I’m able to produce quality work because of their help and support. The amount of what I do would not be possible without their help.”

As a program director at the Department of Social Services, Terri Thompson saw a need for foster youth and decided to take action. As a participant in the Leadership Academy of Supervisors, Ms. Thompson was learning to create and implement a Change Initiative designed to address an area of need. Ms. Thompson says that “one of the big benefits of the Change Initiative process was that it empowered supervisors to make changes.” Many supervisors see the issues at play in their communities, but can be unsure of what they can do to effect change.

Ms. Thompson’s Change Initiative goal was to ensure that youth in her unit had the proper identification documents that they needed for things such as driver’s licenses and employment. Ms. Thompson had found that many youth were aging out of care without any identification. In order to address this, they made acquiring documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, for youth in care a priority.

The Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS) is an online training created by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute and facilitated in South Carolina by USC, in partnership with DSS. In addition to the online modules, participants attend monthly face-to-face meetings to facilitate continued learning and networking among peers from across the state.

Since graduating from the LAS in early 2014, Ms. Thompson has been promoted to a regional performance coach, a position with a greater amount of autonomy. During LAS she was introduced to the Personal Learning Plan, through which participants identify areas in which they want to improve their understanding, knowledge, or leadership skills and implement concrete ways to improve. Ms. Thompson says that this experience gave her a tool to formalize her professional development and assist her in fulfilling what she sees as her personal responsibility for growth and development. This ongoing development allows her to be prepared for any of the varied tasks that being a performance coach can entail, and allows her to support her teams in providing better outcomes for children and families.

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