Due to the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the protection of the health and safety of South Carolinians, Center for Child and Family Studies staff members are working remotely. The best way to reach us is by email.

Walkers Ext 0431 sqKinship Care is the 21st century name for a tradition as old as humanity: children living safely with “kin” when their birth parents are unable to care for them. The South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) seeks to increase the number of kinship caregivers and kinship foster homes in our state, and the Center is ready to further that mission.

The Center brings a great skill to DSS’s aid: multidimensional storytelling. Through fresh custom art, polished new text, and video interviews with caregivers, the Center’s Instructional Design and Production (ID&P) Team brings the experiences of kinship caregivers vividly to South Carolinians.

Fundamental to the campaign are the stories of the Kinship Caregivers themselves. Two of the Center’s instructional designers, Claire Houle and Chris Koslowski, conducted on-camera interviews with kinship caregivers, kinship foster parents, and DSS employees to capture their first-hand experience.

Leslie Gore is a kinship foster parent who took in her granddaughter. Larry and Sarah Walker took in their niece. Daryl McCully also took in his granddaughter. Kim Hall took in the granddaughter of a man who works for her. Their stories differ greatly except for one part: they all took in children they’re connected to, rather than have the children go to strangers in foster care. And all of them were suddenly faced with making the decision about taking in a child they hadn’t planned on raising.

“People tell me I’m a saint for taking her in,” says Sarah Walker. “I’m not a saint. I’m just a person caring for her family.” Likewise, Kim Hall sees herself as part of a network helping a child: “No one person can save a family. You do your part and let people help you along the way.”

Images anchor the campaign and are a crucial piece of the stories. Graphic designer Ansley Green chose the flagship images for the new campaign by focusing on images that express moments in time in Kinship Care. “Kinship Care doesn’t always look the way we imagine it looks,” she says. “I created images that tell about how a life in Kinship Care can look. How people who know and care about a child can step into their lives and bring safety and security.”

Many Kinship Care stories are quiet, happening all around us but going unremarked. By amplifying the tales of people caring for children who are not their own, we hope people will recognize their own story, or the story of someone they know, and go to DSS for needed support. The Center is proud to partner with DSS in the creation of this new media campaign, knowing the benefit it will bring to the children of our state.

Pictured above: Sarah and Larry Walker participate in photo shoot for media campaign

Bronze 2020 41stRealistic portrayal of case manager role is latest Center production to receive a Telly Award.
The Center is honored to be awarded a 2020 Telly Award. The winning submission, Child Welfare Case Manager: It’s More Than a Job, is the result of a collaboration between the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the Center’s Instructional Design and Production team. It’s More Than a Job received a bronze Telly Award in the Non-Broadcast category of General: Recruitment.

The campaign is part of an effort to address problems with the high turnover rate in child welfare. The materials provide a realistic preview of the job to help potential applicants decide if it is a good fit. Research shows that such portrayals improve retention among new hires. The team created four short public service announcements, 78 social media image posts that incorporate the insight of experienced DSS case managers, and an 18-minute video for applicants to view during the interview process. Beck Sullivan, Senior Program Manager of the Instructional Design and Production Team, expressed the joy working on this kind of project brings to the team. She said that “being able to engage with direct line staff” and having “the honor of hearing their stories and of seeing their compassion, dedication, and competence” is always a welcome opportunity. Samples of the work can be viewed on the Center’s website and DSS’s website.

The Telly Awards are an international competition that honors excellence “created within television and across video, for all screens.” Winners are chosen from over 12,000 entries and represent “some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies, and publishers from around the world.” In recent years, the Center has earned a bronze People’s Telly Award, as well as several additional bronze Telly Awards.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the creation of this impressive and important campaign!

RayThe prevalence of mental illness in America’s correctional population is now at a crisis level. Dana DeHart, Assistant Dean of Research at UofSC’s College of Social Work, is taking concrete action to mitigate those issues.

DeHart came to the Center with a deep well of research that could be used to educate correctional officers (COs) and give them specific actions to better address mental illness in their facilities. It fell to the Center to transform the raw research into a training suite that could be used in communities across the United States.

“I sought out services of The Center for Child & Family Studies based on my past experiences with the media team,” DeHart says. “CCFS does an excellent job working with researchers and other stakeholders to translate evidence-based findings into learning objectives, curricula, and professional media products.”

The Instructional Design and Production team took her research and refracted it into a rich array of materials that add up to a comprehensive, community-based training. By working with experts in the social work field in Idaho and Washington State, the team created scenarios and stories that are realistic and intriguing to COs.

The training has twenty modules and can be offered in its entirety or in smaller selections, as needed. All modules have a facilitator’s manual appropriate for a trainer of any level of experience and a coordinated PowerPoint deck that enhances learning. Many modules have short, highly focused video clips of a subject matter expert offering insights, which were shot and edited in-house at the Center. There are also scenarios illustrated by local artist Patrick Fowler and animated by the Center. These animations plunge learners into a challenging situation and help them practice decision-making in a safe environment.

And in an extraordinary boon, the training is free to access and use and is designed to be offered in the community at large. Funded by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, it’s part of a multiyear project titled “Higher Education Partnership on Correctional Mental Health.”

“This project was outstanding to work on,” says project instructional designer Claire Houle. “To use such fascinating information and make it engaging and accessible for community members to use to improve community mental health and connection—well, that is the heart of our mission. I was proud to have been a part of it.”

Most recently, the training was piloted on October 3rd and 4th at the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The pilot was very well-received by trainees and SCDC training staff. Assessment showed significant increase in knowledge about trauma and trauma-informed correctional practice, which were two of the modules offered those days. Also, the module offered on self-care for corrections officers was rated highly. Center staff are excited and hopeful as the training makes its way into the correctional community.

[Pictured: Raymond Smith, PhD candidate, is featured as an expert in the training.]

See the entire training here, including a promotional video, and share it in your community.

Gore Bench 1171The Center won an Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA) 2020 Communicator Award for the “Kinship Care: Loved Ones Stepping In When Children Need Them Most” campaign. “Kinship Care” received a Communicator Award of Distinction in the category of Integrated Campaign--Social Responsibility.

The Instructional Design and Production team partnered with the South Carolina Department of Social Services to craft the campaign, which raises community awareness about the kinship care program. Kinship care provides resources and support to relatives and family friends who step in to care for children when parents are unable to. The marketing materials developed include a poster, brochures, informational and promotional videos for DSS’s website and social media pages, as well as social media image posts. Samples of the work can be viewed here.

The Communicator Awards promote “big ideas in marketing and communications” by recognizing “work that transcends innovation and craft.” The international awards program receives over 6,000 entries each year, and entries are judged by top-tier professionals from media, communications, advertising, and creative and marketing firms. The Award of Distinction honors “Kinship Care” as a project “that exceeds industry standards in quality and achievement.”

The Instructional Design and Production team greatly enjoyed working on this project and is honored to have received this award.

Amber MisaCenter researchers for the National Youth in Transition Database have found that housing instability is a major concern for young people leaving the South Carolina foster care system. Almost half of survey respondents reported having lived in five or more homes during foster care. 16% said they experienced homelessness within the past two years. From their review of the data, NYTD researchers Misa Bailey and Dr. Amber Baughman developed recommendations for a data-driven response to this issue. They urged child welfare agencies to offer additional counseling and future-planning support to educate their transition-aged youth on available housing resources.

Since 2010, the National Youth in Transition Database has assisted child welfare providers in better understanding youth experiences and perceptions of foster care. Housed at the Center, South Carolina’s NYTD researchers have surveyed hundreds of youth at regular intervals as they transition into their adult lives. Their respected track record has drawn widespread recognition, including an invitation to present at the American Evaluation Association’s international conference this fall.

The SC NYTD team is continuing to track youth perceptions and experiences involving foster care. In October the team launched a survey of its third cohort of 19-year-old youth. The survey reconnects with respondents interviewed as 17-year-olds in 2016-2017. To accompany federally mandated queries, the SC NYTD team designed questions about education, finances, housing, social support, and access to health care services. These additions add value to the survey. Once processed through the Center’s expert analysis, the results will give providers the data they need to improve services for youth leaving foster care.

(Picture: Amber Baughman and Misa Bailey)

TuesdayPortraitHandonHip 0199Center trainers and trainees convened at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation (SCVR) headquarters in April to build on the foundations laid in Level 1 of the Training of Trainers (TOT). Where Level 1 focused on training fundamentals, Level 2 focused on issues surrounding teamwork and group performance, like co-facilitation and Tuckman’s Model, a framework for understanding how groups grow, evolve, and ultimately perform at higher levels.

Adult Protective Services trainer Zandarr Spry said Level 2 stretched him and helped him grow as a trainer, especially when it came to working within a team, which necessarily brings with it a certain level of unpredictability. “It’s a challenge when things suddenly switch up,” he said. “You can be working on a project and have your objectives and goals planned out, and then all of a sudden some new information comes in—or a new teammate comes in—and you have to be able to rework your ideas at the last minute.”

The social aspect of training Spry spoke to also extends to working with trainees. Tuesday Duckett, a lead Medicaid trainer, said the TOT helped her better understand the importance of not taking poor audience response personally. “When we’re training,” she said, “people have other issues they’re coming in with, so we can’t take everything that happens—or doesn’t happen—in training personally. That was helpful to keep in mind.”

SCVR Business Development Specialist Robert Truesdale also took part in the TOT. He was so impressed with the training, he put the new knowledge and skills to work at once. “I had to lead a portion of training for my agency,” he said, “and found myself applying what I learned into my presentation.” The Center looks forward to receiving similar feedback as trainers deliver the TOT to other agencies in the near future.

Pictured above: Tuesday Duckett, Lead Medicaid Trainer and participant in TOT Level 2

In a virtual event, Center staff commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Center staff gathered virtually to create pinwheels--determined to move forward with a planned event to raise awareness of child abuse prevention. Laughter and whimsy, symbolized by the pinwheel itself, were evident as staff gathered with their families for the craft and connected remotely with their coworkers.

The event was originally planned as a potluck breakfast to commemorate April as Child Abuse Prevention Month by planting traditional blue and silver pinwheels outside the Center’s building in coordination with Prevent Child Abuse America and other child-serving organizations. Mandates to work from home posed a challenge, but rather than cancel, Center staff got creative. Using materials around the house, Center Director Carl Maas led staff through the craft, and pinwheels were planted across the city—in front lawns, gardens, and hanging baskets.


Ginger Cassell, one of the event’s organizers, captured the fun in a slideshow. (see slideshow below)

With shelter-in-place mandates and the stress of financial uncertainty, Cassell says, “The timing of Child Abuse Prevention Month is particularly poignant this year.” Isolated from teachers and other community members, children are especially vulnerable. In times like these, taking steps to prevent child abuse is more important than ever. Find out how you can help: https://preventchildabuse.org/yesyou/