Carolina Boys Home, a small, publicly funded, private facility for troubled youths in Eau Claire, quietly closed earlier this month.
It was the fourth voluntary shutting down of such a facility around the state in the past 13 months, according to S.C. officials who oversee the group youth homes. About a dozen such homes remain in operation.
State officials could not say specifically what led to the closing of Carolina Boys Home and the other facilities, but they did say in general state and federal dollars to pay for young patients at these group homes are fewer in these economically troubled times.
"It's just another example of how the economy is affecting South Carolina citizens," said Felicity Myers, deputy director of medical services for the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Carolina Boys Home had eight beds and 10 staff members and operated on an annual budget of between $250,000 and $300,000 a year, said Jannie Nelson, the home's operator. It was on several acres of land in north Columbia.
Nelson said the Department of Social Services was placing fewer children with the home these days.
"Funding is just too uncertain," she said.
One employee was a counselor, and another was a house parent who functioned as a live role model for the youths, Nelson said.
"We put our heart and soul into this," she said. "I just don't see how the state is allowing this to happen."
Most youths at the home, boys ages 13 to 19, were not such problems that they needed to be incarcerated at length in the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice system, nor were they mentally unsound.
All needed an intensive environment - called "moderate management" - whereby they could learn the right ways to conduct themselves so they wouldn't get into trouble when returned to their home neighborhoods, Nelson said.
Most residents at her home were sent either by DSS or DJJ, Nelson said.
A DSS official said that agency had no specific problem with Carolina Boys Home.
But, said DSS attorney Virginia Williamson, the agency had cut its per-resident Medicaid payments to all such facilities - there are about a dozen left in the state - by 9 percent earlier this month.
Williamson said facilities that closed last year were the eight-bed Knox Wesleyan in Clinton and the eight-bed Darlington Pines in Darlington. In addition, the Carolina Children's Home on Trenholm Road in Columbia changed 12 beds from "moderate management" to another category of care.
To have three of these homes closing in one year "is somewhat unusual," Williamson said.
Richard Greene, former clinical director at the Clinton facility, said his live-in home was known for offering more effective services for troubled youths than housing them in larger places like DJJ.
"We saw them on a daily basis. It wasn't just once a week for 45 minutes and out," Greene said. "We prided ourselves on the quality of care we gave our kids. For many kids we worked with, we were the last shot."
Carolina Boys Home operator Nelson said having to close her home, when troubled youths need such facilities, was upsetting.
"My biggest question is, 'Where are these boys going?'"
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.