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.”