For four years I was a mentor at Epworth Children’s Home. I saw firsthand the concern, support and care that these children in crisis received under the loving and watchful eyes of the staff and volunteers. In 2016, then-Gov. Nikki Haley agreed to a settlement in the Michelle H. lawsuit that harshly restricts the use of children’s homes as residential alternatives to in-home foster care instead for children in the state’s child welfare system.
Many of these kids do not thrive in foster care, but flourish within the residential community of Epworth. Foster care has separated siblings; Epworth keeps them together. In many cases, the Department of Social Services hastily places children in environments not suited to their needs. At Epworth, each child is evaluated and placed in age- and gender-appropriate cottages, learning social, hygiene and behavioral skills, some for the very first time in their lives.
Sadly, because of this lawsuit, the general population at Epworth has shrunk considerably. So much so that last year there was no little girl for me to mentor. When it comes to our children, one size does not fit all. There is enough room in our community and in our hearts to meet the needs of our at-risk youngsters. Please let us reverse this arbitrary ruling and open our doors and arms to the most vulnerable among us.
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