Loving, Nurturing and Protecting Children of the Lowcountry
December 2020 Issue
By Mary Hope Roseneau | Photography by Christian Lee
The Vision Statement for the Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA) of Beaufort County states: “All children deserve to be loved, nurtured and kept safe
from intentional and unintentional harm.” This vision is so simple
and pure that it seems like it would be a given.
But it’s not.
Since opening in 1985, the Open Arms Children’s Home, just one part of
the CAPA organization has provided that safe harbor for more than
2,300 children. Let that number sink in for a minute.
The two main initiatives of CAPA are the Outreach Programs (parent education, foster parent training, in-home visitation and in-school prevention education) designed to prevent child abuse, and the Open Arms Children’s Home and foster program, both intervention efforts if the worst should happen. CAPA is partially funded by CAPA’s Closet Thrift Store (1340 Ribaut Road in Beaufort) and fundraising events such as the popular “Ghost Tours” on the Point at Halloween and “Dancing With Our Stars.” They also receive funding through grants from the Victims of Crime Act, the United Way of the Lowcountry, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Coastal Community Foundation, Beaufort County, many local communities, and corporate and individual donations.
I met Jessica Chapman, Director of Development and Tina Kuhn, Director of Residential Services at CAPA’s offices in Port Royal and they are both passionate about their work. They were excited to share stories about the children and young adults who come through the doors of the group home. Some don’t want to leave. “We’re doing something right, says Tina. “It’s their home, and they are our children.” Many of the CAPA’s residential alumni family keep coming back to visit, as did a young man recently. Married with a child now, who wanted to show his wife his “family.”
“We love seeing them come home as successful thriving adults,” says Tina.
“One of the first things we ask when a new child
arrives at the home is if they are hungry.
Just like you may do with your own children, and if so,
we go to the kitchen and help fill their bellies.”
The Open Arms Group Home is licensed by the state of South Carolina to house birth to age 21 children. CAPA foster homes provide placements for all children entering foster care, with the group home taking older children. “Aging out” of foster care occurs when a teen in foster care does not return to their home of origin, nor receives an adoptive placement. These children are only committed to state custody until the age of 18.
Some young people opt to stay in the program until they must exit at age 21. Staying in foster care provides a host of extra support systems, college aid and guidance for these young men and women. For teens who many age out of the system, CAPA encourages them to stay in foster care and reap every opportunity they can through the South Carolina Department of Social Services’ Independent Living Program; of course, with CAPA’s love and help, too.
There are three shifts of at least two staff members at the group home, providing care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While living at Open Arms, residents learn independent living skills, hold jobs, attend local schools (sometimes college or technical school), and lead as normal a teenage life as they possibly can. They have chores, earn allowances, attend sessions with the staff therapist and recently learned about voting. One of the residents was old enough to vote this year and voted in the recent election—three recent Open Arms alumni voted, as well.
They also have fun, such as going to the beach, the bowling alley, Carowinds and even learning to ride a bike. Life enrichment activities are also offered like visiting surrounding museums, attending military graduations, taking budgeting classes and a variety of so much more. CAPA strives for every child to experience things they may not have yet in the course of their lives. A trip to the movie theater once began with two children looking bewildered at a staff member as they stood in line. The young boy and girl inquired to the staff member, “What do we do in there?” They had never been to a movie theater before.
In addition, the young people are taught about giving back to the community, and they volunteer in service to others, such as visiting older folks at an assisted living nearby, animals at the cat sanctuary and local animal shelters. But that was before Covid 19.
Like everyone else in the country, the virus concern has canceled volunteering by the teenagers, and also one of their most fun and important events of the year, Halloween Ghost Tours. They are crossing their fingers the “Dancing with Our Stars” fundraiser, which is scheduled for March 2021 will be able to be held.
In discussing their different roles, Jessica, as Director of Development, is in charge of finding the resources, whether financial or otherwise; Tina’s job is the day-to-day operation of the group home and the army it requires to keep it going. As Jessica put it, “I work for the children; Tina works with the children.”
Final Thoughts from Jessica and Tina:
• There are several ways to volunteer. Go to www.capabeaufort.org and check them out.
• They really appreciate suitcases! When a child leaves, they want them
to always have luggage, not plastic garbage bags. It’s such a message.
• Many ways to donate! United Way, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Coastal Community Foundation, the CAPA’s Closet Thrift Store, and through their website
• To every community member: Keep your eyes open for signs of child abuse or neglect. If you see something, say something! Report your concerns to SC DSS at 1-888-CARE4US.
“The kids are thriving in the group home, and they
are learning how to be successful.” -Tina
Success Story #1:
One teenage boy came to live at the group home after living in a car with his mom for two years, not attending school. The staff recognized his untapped potential, and assisted him to enroll and take the GED test as the quickest way to receive a high school diploma. He took the test and passed it easily.
Success story #2:
From the CAPA 2019 Annual Report, a statement from a resident of the shelter, a 14-year-old girl: “I can ride a bike now! I never rode a bike before. I was so scared but Ms. Angela told me I would be OK. She told me she would not let go of the bike until I told her to. She held me up, and I learned to ride my bike. I fell three times, but I got up and kept riding. . .”
This story sums up the love, support and training given to these children, and also
the definition of success: When your bike falls down, you get up and keep riding.