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Staff Spotlight: Ms. Joy

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Joy

“Working with the teens at Palmetto Place is my dream job,” says Ms. Joy, “I’m passionate about being able to help them the way I do and I put my heart and soul into meeting their needs any way I can.”

An Inside Look at Palmetto Place

Today's post comes from Victoria Infinger, our communications intern.  

You've heard our mission statement: Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter provides a safe and nurturing environment for abused and neglected children and unaccompanied teens, offering them a broad range of services concentrating on personal healing and development. The shelter is open 24 hours each day of the year and provides medical and mental health care, crisis adjustment/transitional counseling, after-school tutoring and recreational and social activities in addition to food, clothing and shelter.

But what are a few days in the life of the shelter actually like?

Day 1: The Call 

One of the most common questions people ask is where our children come from.  It’s hard to pin-point an exact place where our residents come from, but it’s easiest to tell you that they come from referrals.  Sometimes children come to us from DSS, and sometimes they come from law enforcement, other shelters, or schools.  If we are able to serve the child, Palmetto Place will apply for more information and attend court.  DSS determines the process needed to help the family and the child.

“It is our job to protect these kids,” says Jill Lawson, our director of client services.

This is just the first step in protecting them.

Day 2: The Child

Abuse: (verb) To treat a person with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. 

Defining abuse is easy to put into words on a computer screen, but abuse materializes into many different forms when it rings your doorbell in the form of a child.

Each story is different.  Each child is different.  They vary from the child whose mother dropped him off on his birthday saying, “Happy birthday. I don’t want you anymore” to the youth whose back is covered with gashes from a belt dipped in hot wax.  Sometimes the story goes as simply as the family was not capable of taking care of the child.

When children are lucky, they come to us with everything they own stuffed into a black garbage bag.  Most children arrive empty handed, not wanting to bring anything back from “home.”

Palmetto Place then shows the child to their room.  One resident recalls fondly a group of small children rushing to hug and welcome her.  At the time, she didn't know a single face.

Day 3: The Breakdown

Moving is hard, especially if you've lost sense of what is home.

Jessica, one of Palmetto Place’s board members, recalled an afternoon in which she and her family had taken the shelter out for pizza and games.  A young girl tugged on her arm and whispered, “I want to go home.”  She didn't realize that this was the girl’s first day at the shelter, and when she said “home,” she meant her home before Palmetto Place.

This is where our houseparents come to the rescue.  We have Ms. Jenny, our lead houseparent, who swooped the girl into her arms and told her that Palmetto Place was a castle, and she got to be the princess.

Day 4 – The End: Restoration

Palmetto Place provides a safe home and resources for children to mend and grow.  Sometimes counseling is the most effective therapy for children, and sometimes we get a bit creative.

Jill, who has worked with Palmetto Place children for many years, describes a few ways in which Palmetto Place helps our children grow:

  • Pet Therapy
  • Mindful Meditation Classes
  • Self-Esteem Groups

“I've met many children,” says Jill, “Children who turn their trauma into hope or goals or survival.  Group homes are doing great things, but this is what makes Palmetto Place extra special.”




Happy New Year!

Each year, our counselor, Jill, works with our kids to write New Year's Resolutions. It's a good time to set goals, maybe close the door on a rough year and, of course, start fresh. This year, Jill added a little something to this fun activity. She asked the kids about last year - what did you do really well in 2013? What did you learn? What did you enjoy? Here's a look back at 2013 and a look ahead at 2014. Thanks for being part of our Palmetto Place family last year and we look forward to sharing more with you in the year to come.


  • In 2013 I was really great about remembering … my mom … to listen … to do my homework … to stay strong
  • In 2013, I really enjoyed… chicken… the Fair
  • In 2013, I learned … multiplication … being myself … to live with multiple people … how to be a good reader … how to make real true friends … new skills for my job … to be grateful
  • In 2013, I connected with … the kids at Palmetto Place … my dad


  • In 2014, I will … be happy and I’ll go home and my mom will be happy … make new friends … make a new life … be responsible … be myself and express myself … keep accomplishing my goals
  • In 2014, I will be grateful because … being at Palmetto Place has shown me that I take so much for granted ... I will appreciate my mom and all she does for me.
  • In 2014, I will be grateful to see my family
  • In 2014, I will do less … complaining … talking … TV … judging
  • In 2014, I will do more … listening … thinking … being grateful … working at my job … studying … making the best of things …

I think we can all learn a lot from these kids' 2014 resolutions as we think about our own goals for the year.


Jenga, Anyone?

Today's blog post comes from Jill Lawson, our crisis and transitions counselor. How often does your family get together and play board games? At Palmetto Place, we get creative in using fun games to also teach life skills. And believe it or not, recognizing emotions and feelings is an important life skill. Here’s how we played Jenga yesterday.

The goal of the game is to keep the wooden tower standing while pulling out each block one by one. We modified the game by writing an emotion or "feeling word" on each block. When a resident on-so-carefully pulled a block out, he or she had to explain what that emotion was, how it looked (physical symptoms, etc.) and if they've ever experienced it. When a child has been neglected or abused they often have difficulty in identifying feelings--or they are only able to explain the basics such as mad, sad, or happy.


One of our teens pulled the word “burdened” and she shared that while she didn't know what it meant, her guardian had told her she was a burden and that made her feel sad because she knew it was a negative word.

Another teen said he was “hopeful” because he knew Palmetto Place would help him succeed in life and get to college.

Our 10 year old said she would never be “lonely” even though she has been in foster care for over 3 years because she would always have other foster kids to relate her feelings with and she would always have Jesus.

“Jealous”, “insecure”, and “uncomfortable” led us in to a conversation about healthy relationships. We wrapped up with “kindhearted” and discussed how everyone is fighting a battle of some sort and it’s important to always be compassionate. Our 9 year old added that we never know what someone has been through because each person’s situation is different and it’s important to show them love.

After over an hour of Jenga fun and conversation about feelings, the tower was still standing with only a few blocks left. The bottom block read “thankful” – I couldn’t be more thankful for having the privilege to work with these awesome kids each day. They teach me more than I could ever teach them about life!

The Life of a Potato

Today's post is from Jill Lawson, our counselor, who always finds amazing creative ways to help our kids. What better way to start a group on Diversity with our residents than to get creative with a sack of potatoes. Our kids all have an array of life stories – different ways they grew up, different skin colors, different values, different preferences, different experiences.

How could I convey to them that although everyone is different, they all have something in common and respect is required?

Each kid blindly grabbed a potato from a sack and had to quietly come up with their potato’s life story – how it got its markings, indentions, dimples, scars, etc. Keep in mind that the kids participating ranged from 6 years to 18 years of age so you can imagine the “potato life stories” we heard. One potato was a super power monster. Ha!

Eric came to group with ear buds in listening to music and I was worried he wouldn’t participate. Side note: Eric is 17 and is in a self-contained class and struggles with reading and writing skills, but is extremely street smart (for lack of a better word). He’s a pleasant teenager with high ambitions in life. When it was Eric’s turn to tell his potato’s life story he said “my potato grew up in a home where his parents had fights and his stepdad beat him. He went to school and didn’t make good grades, got into fights, joined a gang, and was in foster care. My potato has bruises on the outside and the inside. But he got a good job and made it out.”

I was in total shock! This opened up the conversation for us to explore resiliency and perseverance despite our hardships and battles. It also allowed us to acknowledge that we all have experienced different events in life that will forever make an impression. Like potatoes, our scars and markings are all different but we all have something in common – whether we are all trying to make a difference and survive life’s curveballs or we are all residents of the same household but for different reasons.

We ended the group by discussing how we can respect others even though they are different from us or may have different values and backgrounds.

“Be kind. For everyone is fighting a battle.”