Last week the kids were on spring break! In this post, Ms. Kamelle shares some of the teen house’s adventures!
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Last week the kids were on spring break! In this post, Ms. Kamelle shares some of the teen house’s adventures!
When you think of “Family,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of one of America’s most iconic TV families: The Brady Bunch, Full House, or the Cosby’s. Do families like those, the ones with unconditional love, really exist?
“My favorite part of working at Palmetto Place is getting to know the kids we serve. Some of them have been through so much trauma and pain, but while they’re here, they’re just kids and teens.
Update, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2015 Palmetto Place is very fortunate to have fared well through the flooding. We’ve had water damage to our office and we, like many others, are on a boil water advisory, which could last for some time. We are so grateful to everyone who has provided food and water, plus activities for all of our kids.
Our fundraisers will go on as scheduled and we hope you will continue to support us as we care for kids in need. Please see our events page for details. If you'd like to make a donation, please visit our donation page.
Thank you again for all you’ve done to support us through this situation.
Monday, Oct. 5, 2015
So many of you have checked on us through email, Facebook and Twitter and we are so appreciative to have such great friends! We are safe and dry. We have water and power. Most importantly, we have amazing houseparents who have weathered the storm with our kids - all of whom have been very patient. We stocked the house with food on Friday to help out this weekend. Our houseparents cooked a huge lunch and dinner Sunday and we just keep going.
At this moment, we do not have any specific needs but thanks to those of you who have reached out! We'll keep you posted if anything changes and if we have needs.
We're very grateful to all of the emergency personnel who are working so hard to put our city back together.
“The known smells, sounds, sights, and feel of home let our brains relax and rejuvenate. It's a key part of why 'There's no place like home.'” When I saw this tweet from Amelia Franck Meyer (@alfranckmeyer), can you guess the first thing that came to mind?
If you know me, you know my mind went to the smell of food. My very first thought was of the smell of bacon as I walk into Palmetto Place in the morning. Ms. Matilda and Ms. LaConte cook some great breakfasts and the bacon smell is a great way to start the morning.
Amelia knows what she’s talking about – she knows kids and she knows kids who’ve experienced trauma. She’s the CEO of Anu Family Services in Wisconsin and Minnesota and a guru at well-being for kids and taking care of kids who are in out-of-home care, just like our kids. When she speaks, I listen, because what she says is important and crucial for the right care of kids who’ve experienced trauma.
So, let’s talk about the five senses of home.
Bacon in the mornings! And laundry - the almost nonstop smell of laundry. I love that clean smell!
I can mark the time in the afternoons by the sound of the kids on the basketball court. It means they’re home from school. It means I get to take a work break and go play for a few minutes and see how the day was at school. It’s 15 minutes that I can connect with kids as they unwind. I will always remember one particular middle schooler who started playing at exactly 3:45 every day all by himself. It was his way to relax and think through the day. I learned a lot from him.
Endless smiles. That’s what comes to mind. We have smiles in the mornings before school! Okay, truth – that’s mostly elementary school kids. Middle schoolers, well, they’re a little grumpy. High schoolers, they’re so independent that they’re just out the door. If you have kids, you know!
There’s a lot to see at Palmetto Place. There are older kids helping younger kids, houseparents and volunteers helping kids with homework or playing games or reading. To walk through the house on any given afternoon is a treat. It is a house buzzing with activity. It is kids being kids.
Ask the kids and they will tell you their favorite foods! Ms. Gloria’s spaghetti, Ms. Jenny’s baked chicken, Ms. Betty’s shrimp fried rice, Ms. Jill’s Christmas Eve dinner and on and on and on. Ask kids and adults who once lived at Palmetto Place and they’ll have their own memories of food they loved.
A wise friend taught me something very smart years ago. Hugs, high fives and handshakes. As her kids enter her classroom each morning, they get to choose one. I borrowed this from her – that’s the highest form of flattery, right?
Hugs, high fives and handshakes are what all kids need, but especially kids who’ve experienced trauma, abuse, neglect. I’m a big fan of a hug. I hug every kid who wants a hug. New kids who’ve just arrived at Palmetto Place are understandably standoffish at first. Who is this woman and these other adults and all these kids who want to be my friend? Who can I trust? And after a day or so, after they’ve seen other kids give hugs, then they want in on the hugs and the high fives! That first hug is always a little hesitant. But then it becomes a giant group hug.
Touch. It’s how kids learn to connect with others. It’s a part of learning to trust. It’s a part of accepting love.
Since it’s the first week of school, there are other parts of the sense of touch on my mind too. The feel of those brand new shoes. Carrying a brand new backpack to school. Writing with a newly sharpened pencil on that smooth new composition notebook. Everyone's new haircuts! Thank you InnerSole, FiA Midlands, AFLAC, TD Bank and many others for providing shoes, school supplies and much more!)
Do you see a pattern? All of these memories through senses – they are the feel of home. And there’s no place like home. When home isn’t a safe place, there is Palmetto Place.
~ Erin Hall, Executive Director
Monday marked the first day of school for our children… well, everyone except Kevin. Kevin was thrilled to have the whole big house and all of the houseparents’ attention to himself today. He said that he woke up later than everyone else – and it “ROCKED!”
Later, he took his two new favorite toys, Batman and Spiderman, and the three of them played a rousing game of pick-up basketball (it was a close game, but Kevin made a last-second three point shot to win against the plastic figurines).
After basketball, Kevin went on an adventure with the houseparents; getting him registered for school. As he walked up to the elementary school he was nervous; starting a new school year is never easy. After getting the paperwork filled out Kevin wanted to meet his new teacher. Although he can’t remember her name, he said, “She seems really nice. I’m excited about fourth grade even if I’m going to have to learn multiplication!” He was starting to feel better about starting school when he heard a familiar voice. Darting down the hall and around a corner he saw his favorite substitute teacher!
On their way home from running errands he asked if he could get his favorite lunch, McDonalds and chocolate milk! He ate lunch with some staff members, something he doesn’t normally get to do when all the kids are home. He expressed a little apprehension about having to take timed multiplication tests, but quickly talked himself out of it when he realized how smart he would be once he mastered multiplication.
Though he was excited to get back to school to see his friends, what was even more exciting was that this afternoon, he got to pick whatever channel he wanted on TV. Unrestricted by “all those girls” to choose a suitable movie, Kevin was able to kick back and watch Cars, and took up as much room on the couch as he wanted. As Cars came to its denouement, Kevin realized he had done everything he had wanted to do in his day off. Luckily, just then, the van with the other kids pulled into the driveway and they came barreling into the house, wide-ruled notebooks and #2 pencils flying.
Kevin loved the peace and quiet of the morning, but by the end of the day he was thankful for the usual hustle, bustle and chatter. He was thrilled to have the other kids back around – those he has come to consider his family – so he could hear their stories of new classrooms, new teachers and old friends on the playground. By the end of the school day, Kevin couldn’t wait to begin his own school journey tomorrow (even if he does have to learn multiplication). We wish for you and yours the same that we wish for all our children – a happy and healthy start to the school year! We can’t wait to see what this year brings!
I learn so much more from Palmetto Place than I will ever be able to teach. This proves itself to me time and time again, particularly when I need a reminder of what's important (and thank you, God, for those reminders). This week's lesson was about learning names. We have wonderful houseparents and other staff caring for our children, but I think it must be overwhelming and challenging for a new kiddo to learn all of our names and learn -- quickly -- that we are all going to keep this child safe and provide love. A new little girl arrived on Sunday, scared and in pain inside and out. We have surrounded her with love. Our houseparents have served the role of aunt, sister, cousin, friend, teacher and, maybe most importantly, nurse. As we've cared for this child each day - just Sunday, Monday and Tuesday so far - we have all turned 100% of our focus and concern and prayers to her.
Yesterday afternoon, the kids were coloring Easter eggs from coloring books. Each egg had an initial on and the kids were picking out a J for Mrs. Jackie and Ms. Jenny, a V for Mrs. Vera, a G for Mrs. Gloria, a T for Mrs. Thelma, etc. And then this quiet little voice spoke up and said "and an M for Ms. Matilda and an E for Mrs. Erin." And she kept going with names. My heart sang! In the midst of her pain and trauma, she knew our names! She had learned so quickly who was taking care of her! We'd earned her trust!
And then I knew, she was going to be ok. Sweat the small things. It's always the small things that our kids remember. One day she'll remember that Palmetto Place was a happy place and that an amazing group of houseparents with hearts as big as the whole wide world loved her and took care of her when she needed it.
~~ Erin Hall, Executive Director
When the phone rings at Palmetto Place, there is a good chance that it's a placement call, a DSS caseworker from Columbia or somewhere around the state trying to find a place for a child who has been abused or neglected. I dread those calls because, so often, we are full. I dread having to say, "No, I'm sorry, we can't take this child." I know that caseworker is calling every children's home and children's emergency shelter around the state, desperate for an available bed for a child in need. This week has been one with many of those calls. Five kids from one county 2 hours away. Five more kids from another county an hour away. Two teenagers, one pregnant and one with a baby, from 2 hours away. Four from right here in the Midlands and three homeless teenagers here in Columbia. Add it up. That's 19 in one week. 19 kids who needed Palmetto Place.
We were able to take four. Just four out of 19. It is heartbreaking. It weighs heavily on the hearts and souls of our houseparents. It requires an immense amount of trust, prayer and faith.
Sometimes the calls come in at the same time and our team has to come together and decide which kids to take in - which kids we can help the most; which kids will fit in at Palmetto Place and be able to thrive and be loved. That was yesterday. We chose to take two kids from this area so that they could be close to their family and so that siblings could stay together and not be in different children's homes.
I pray we made the right decision. I pray for the other kids for whom we didn't have room.
The two new kids who arrived earlier this week have settled in to life at Palmetto Place - a home full of brothers and sisters! They seem happy. There are smiles and hugs. One little girl is not quite up to hugging yet but she's definitely up for having her hair brushed. I think today just might be the day we warm up to a hug.
Our new kids are about to experience a Palmetto Place weekend - visits from our F3 friends and our friends from Junior Woman's Club of Columbia, a trip to see a play, a new mentor and much more. Everyone will be safe, protected and loved this weekend and all of our kids will get to be kids! It's just another weekend at Palmetto Place, doing what we do best. Thanks to everyone who is a part of this Palmetto Place family!
~From Erin Hall, Executive Director
One of our values at Palmetto Place is teaching our kids. We do that in many ways, from learning manners to learning how to do chores to learning about important events in our country. Tonight begins a month of Black History Month activities at Palmetto Place. Our kids are choosing great African American leaders, inventors, educators and more and they are sharing what they learn with their Palmetto Place family. Tonight's feature - our third grader will share what she's learned about George Washington Carver. She checked out a book from her school library and is doing a presentation for the house. Then she'll pick the next resident who will pick the next great African American to research and share the story.
We are so proud of our staff for making this happen and proud of our kids for learning so much!
Do you know about George Washington Carver?
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:
“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.”
We’re snowed in again! Our 20 kids love it – just like your kids do! But it takes a lot of preparation to get ready. A few of you have asked what our plan is and we thought you’d all like to know.
Here’s how the average week works -
We keep our large storage freezer full of food at all times – chicken fingers, pizzas, French fries, sweet potato tater tots, lasagnas, other frozen entrees. Plus our pantry has huge cans of fruit, green beans and other vegetables, spaghetti and sauce, mac and cheese, oatmeal, grits, granola bars, snacks and more. We can pull from this storage and pantry as needed for each day's meals.
Then every few days, we make a grocery store trip for eggs, milk, cheese, bread, fresh vegetables, lettuce for salads, bananas, apples, oranges, juice.
Sounds just like your shopping trips, right? Yes! But for 20 kids!
So when bad weather comes our way, we load the two freezers in the shelter house with everything we can think of. We make an extra trip to the grocery store for all of those fresh items plus bottled water. This time around, we’ve planned for being snowed in for three to four days.
It’s quite the assembly line from the storage freezer in our back office to the freezers in the house – perfect job for our teens to help with!
Then we load in toilet paper, paper towels, plates, cups, plastic forks and spoons, bath soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Again – just making sure we’re prepared for anything!
The shelter vans get full tanks of gas. Flashlights are loaded with new batteries. The Xbox and Wii controllers are also loaded with new batteries – gotta keep the kids entertained!
We put boxes of salt in the house to sprinkle on the front steps and walk. This time around, the salt task was given to a very responsible teenager who will want a project.
And how about our staff? On a normal day, houseparents who work 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm and 10 pm to 6 am. The overnight staff don’t sleep – they’re up doing laundry, checking on kids throughout the night and cleaning.
But in weather situations like this one, all bets are off! Our houseparents pack overnight bags just in case they can’t get out. We have houseparents on standby in case someone can’t get in to work. We brought extra pillows, blankets and quilts in to the house for houseparents who might be staying much longer than a normal eight-hour shift.
So what’s happening today? Tuesday’s afternoon houseparents arrived with overnight bags packed for a few days. They worked their shift, communicated with other houseparents and made the smart decision to stay put at Palmetto Place – for their own safety and for the safety of other houseparents. They took turns sleeping last night and they were up this morning making breakfast and starting a snow day with the kids!
Our kids are so lucky to have houseparents like these – the dedication is admirable.
Now we are just hoping the ice isn’t bad and the power stays on. Never fear, we have a plan for that as well.
Thanks for all your thoughts and concerns! The next time you see our houseparents, please tell them thank you for spending their snow days at Palmetto Place with our big house full of kids!
She learned to speak, thanks in large part to the dedication of our house parents. When she left, she could ask for what she wanted in very clear sentences. She spoke to EVERYONE by name and could ask new friends what their names were. She learned to say “delicious” at lunch and dinner.
She learned how to sing “He’s got the whole work in his hands” and would insert names in it – He’s got me and Ms. Laconte in his hands!
She learned how to dress herself, pick out her own clothes and help our 2-year-old little girl, Rhea, do the same.
We will miss Ariel. We'll miss the way she spoke to us and looked at us with understanding beyond her three years, the way she enthusiastically demanded hugs, the way she offered compliments on shoes and earrings and hair. We are sad to see her go. But we always remind ourselves in these situations, when one sweet kiddo leaves, there is another who needs us--one who is waiting for there to be a little more space in our hands for holding.