Why do children need to come and live at Epworth?
The children who call Epworth home have experienced a great deal of hurt and suffering. On average, 65% of residents are placed at Epworth by the SC Department of Social Services after being removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. The remaining 35% arrive as a private placement as a result of a fractured family system that often includes addiction issues, homelessness or other forms of instability. On average, Epworth has 20 sibling groups on campus at any given time. The average stay for a child at Epworth is around one year and eight months, but can vary from a couple of weeks to several years.
How many children are on campus and what are their ages?
The children on campus are between the ages of four and 18. Nine cottages on campus are home to an average of 76 children at any given time. Cottage parents and staff provide consistent and ongoing care and supervision for children while on campus, using the C.A.R.E. Model developed by Cornell University. C.A.R.E. is a comprehensive model of research-based practices that enables Epworth staff members to consistently guide children in ways that lead to a higher range of social, emotional and behavioral functioning.
What is education like for children at Epworth?
During the school year, children are enrolled in Richland Country School District One public schools including Dreher High School, Hand Middle School and Brennan Elementary School. They participate in school sports and extracurricular activities like baseball, basketball and band on a regular basis. Many of the children are more than two grade levels behind their peers when they arrive at Epworth. Our Chief Academic Officer works with the children, the schools, certified teachers and volunteers to provide private tutoring sessions after school at the Barnes Learning Center on the Epworth campus. During the summer, Epworth offers two sessions of Educational Enrichment for the children to help them meet and maintain their educational expectations.
In addition, Epworth now offers high school residents the option to take online classes in the Barnes Learning Center through a free online public charter high school. The program is mastery based and allows Epworth to direct more personalized support for children struggling with grades and/or motivation to improve their education. Because many of our children have experienced educational neglect and have had limited to no positive educational role models prior to arriving at Epworth, the charter school helps us stress the importance of a quality education in breaking the cycle of abuse, neglect and shame so residents will become self-respecting, responsible and productive adults.
What services are offered to the children while on campus?
Epworth’s campus consists of a dining hall, tutoring center, gymnasium, health center and counseling/admissions center. Health care, fitness, counseling, tutoring sessions and meals are all provided on campus. A comprehensive needs assessment for each child is done upon arrival. This assessment evaluates where each child is academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Directors and staff from each of those areas work together to develop a care plan tailored to each child. The care plan is evaluated by the case managers on a regular basis.
Specifically, how are mental and physical health issues addressed at Epworth?
Upon arrival each child is given a physical. Many of the children have not received adequate health care prior to their arrival at Epworth. They arrive with conditions ranging from lice to cavities; and depression to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of Epworth’s two on site nurses arranges for the appropriate doctor visits and sits with each child during the exam. At our on site Health Care Center the children visit with a psychologist on a monthly basis as needed. When a child in a cottage comes down with a contagious illness, one of two nurses care for him or her in the center by providing all the things a loving parent would provide, including chicken-noodle soup. Counseling services are also offered to children on campus, as well as free family counseling and parenting classes. If a higher level of therapy is needed, Epworth transports children to appointments off campus.
What about the Spiritual development of the children at Epworth?
Epworth is home to Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church. A UMC pastor lives and works on campus and provides worship and spiritual direction for the children each week. Sunday school is provided by faithful volunteers on a weekly basis. The older children participate in youth group (UMYF) and the younger children are invited to the Good News Bible Club. Children have the option to attend service camps through Salkahatachie, residential week-long summer camps through Asbury Hills and attend other state wide events offered by the SC Conference of the United Methodist Church.
What is the ultimate goal for each child at Epworth?
Each child who comes to Epworth has varying needs and abilities. One-size-fits-all care does not work. Epworth values the child as a whole and takes the necessary steps to lift up each child. For this reason, assessing progress for the children is done on an individual basis. Epworth’s Mission is to serve children, youth and families through a caring, accepting and safe Christian community, where hurts are healed; hope is nurtured; and faith in God, self and others is developed. The purpose of Epworth is to break the destructive cycle of abuse, neglect and shame and replace it with an opportunity for each child to live a life of self respect, responsibility and productivity. We invest in comprehensive care that meets each child’s needs to transform his or her life.
What happens to the children when they turn 18?
When a child ages out of the foster care system they usually have two options: return to the environment they came from or try and make it on their own. While children will on occasion choose this option as they leave Epworth, this is never our desire, and Epworth works to provide more self-sustaining options for residents. For many years Epworth has successfully implemented a Higher Education Program that accompanies residents who are enrolled in four-year colleges where housing is available. These young adults are mentored by our Minister of Higher Education and receive assistance applying for scholarships, moving into the dorms and paying for additional expenses. Epworth provides housing on the Epworth campus during breaks and holidays for the Higher Education residents.
In the last few years it has become ever more apparent that there is a need to provide housing to students entering vocational schools or technical colleges where campus housing is not available. The success rate for children between the ages of 18 and 25 increases when they have a safe and supervised place to live. For this reason, Epworth expanded the Higher Education program into an Independent Living Initiative. This pilot program allows Epworth to accommodate students between the ages of 18 and 25 on campus while they continue their education and sharpen their life-skills. Through this program residents receive structure and training in life skills; clean, safe and supervised housing on campus; and career development.
How do you pay to provide care for the children?
Each year more than 40% of our annual operating revenue is contributed by congregations, individuals and the corporate community. A minimal amount of funding, around 22%, comes from government reimbursements. The remaining portion of the annual operating budget is provided by a modest endowment, which includes the combined gifts from those who chose to leave a legacy to Epworth and from the sale of original property.