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Sisters of Charity Foundation establishes kinship care initiative

COLUMBIA—Lacretta Murphy of North Charleston stepped in to help her grandnephew 17 years ago when he was still an infant. His mother and father could not raise him, so Murphy showed up at the hospital and became one of the thousands of people in South Carolina raising non-biological children.

They are grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and sometimes family friends and other loved ones who struggle to give these kids the best lives possible while dealing with financial issues, legal hurdles and other obstacles, a rapidly growing segment of the population involved in what is known as “kinship care.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently estimated that nationally more than 2.7 million children are in kinship families, an increase of 18 percent in the past decade. Estimates show one in 11 children will spend at least some time being raised by someone other than their parents during their lifetimes. In South Carolina, about 55,000 kids were in kinship care between 2011 and 2013.

Helping these families is the goal of a new Kinship Care Initiative developed by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.

The program’s first aim is to develop a Kinship Care Advisory Council to make grants, establish partnerships with organizations and address public policy issues, said Tamara Peterson, program director. She said one of the first goals is to compile a guide that kinship families can use to locate services and assistance.

By 2015, the foundation wants to begin providing grants and financial resources to groups that work with kinship families around the state.

On Sept. 10, the foundation brought family and social services workers together with people like Murphy who provide kinship care. They discussed challenges these families face and why more support for them is so crucial.

“Kinship care helps improve permanency for these children,” said Jennifer Miller, a social worker and child advocate who has studied the issue. “It decreases the risk of disruption in their lives, and there is a lower estimated risk of behavioral problems for these kids if they can be placed with kin instead of in the foster care system.”

People who take in others’ children often aren’t prepared, and need everything from help navigating the maze of federal and state benefits to something as basic as a crib or car seat, items provided by Helping and Lending Outreach Services (HALOS), an organization that helps kinship families in Charleston and Dorchester Counties.

“Our current laws and policies were not made with kinship families in mind, and we have to start to respond because this is a growing family dynamic nationwide,” said Kim Clifton, who works with HALOS.

Murphy said she is proud of how her grandnephew has turned out, but could use help in finding counseling and legal services.

One woman who identified herself only as “Miss Dolores” said she is a 62-year-old grandmother raising two grandsons, and is frustrated with trying to deal with a system that often seems insensitive to the needs of people like her. Recently, she said she received a letter threatening to revoke the boys’ Medicaid coverage if she was unable to show up for a child support hearing with their biological mother.

“These boys didn’t ask to come to me, and I wanted to retire, but I will do my best for them,” she said. “I would pick up cans before I let them go hungry."

 

Peace corps volunteer fondly recalls people, life in Guinea

Sara Teising knows what it’s like to wash clothes in a river and draw water from a well.

Within a month of earning her engineering degree from Notre Dame University in 2012, the 24-year-old Walhalla native was in the West African nation of Guinea as a Peace Corps volunteer. She spent the next two years there teaching math to eighth- through 10th-graders.

Teising came home in July and recently spent precious time with her family that included attending Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Mission in Walhalla.

She is now in Philadelphia to begin a post-bachelor’s degree program at the University of Pennsylvania, but she thinks about Africa all the time.

“I hear from my students and from the people I knew there through Facebook,” she said in a recent phone interview. “It’s going to take a long time to get used to being back here. There are things I’m glad of, like being able to put my laundry in a machine, but other times, all throughout the day, I miss it. I miss the people.”

She became interested in helping others while at Notre Dame, where she spent spring breaks working with the needy in Appalachia and helped develop a summer program for homeless kids. A desire to be involved on an international level led her to the Peace Corps.

“My science background gave me some good problem-solving skills, and I thought what better way to use them than to join?” she said. “It was a different path than what all my peers were doing, but I thought it would be a great experience.”

She went through three months of education and French language training in Guinea before beginning her work. Teising stayed with a family in Diankana, a village of about 8,000 people in Haute Guinea, the nation’s desert region.

While many of the local houses were mud huts, Teising said her family’s compound was “pretty modern” with cement walls and floors. There was no electricity, however, and no running water. She learned to wash her clothes on a washboard.

“During dry season, water was very scarce and I had to decide to use my water for drinking or washing,” she said. “I have to say that drinking always won out.”

Communication was a challenge too. Email was nearly impossible because of the lack of electricity and snail-pace internet connections. And phone calls?

“I didn’t have a cell phone network unless I climbed to the roof of my neighbor’s house,” she said. “Calls rarely went beyond ‘Hi mom, this is where I am.’

She rode a bicycle seven miles a day to the school where she taught, but said the hard work and long nights of drawing up lesson plans were worth it because her students were so enthusiastic. She is also proud of a regional conference she organized to teach young girls about health issues.

Guinea, a poor nation of about 12 million, has been in the news recently because of the Ebola outbreak. Teising said the disease first appeared in the region next to hers in December but officials didn’t know it was Ebola until February, after victims’ blood was tested in France.

Teising and other volunteers were told to take precautions, but the disease didn't affect her region.

 

Spiritual program teaches men to stand up for their church and family

SPARTANBURG—That Man Is You! arrived at Jesus Our Risen Savior at 6 a.m. Sept. 10, but the men who signed up for this spiritual reawakening program pulled in much earlier than that.

“They were here before we even got the name tags organized,” facilitator Gary Towery said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They came in droves — 106 that first morning. Those spearheading the faith leadership sessions said 140 men already have signed up, and they are expecting even more in coming weeks.

It is that powerful.

The men are drawn by a craving to reclaim their traditional roles in the Church that they have let slip, and this program points the way, said Adorno Father Ted Kalaw.

That Man Is You! focuses on the personal traits and leadership roles necessary for a man to stand up for the Church, his family and his community. The program highlights Jesus as the perfect role model, while also drawing from the Scriptures and the lives of the saints.

It is set up into two, 13-week sessions, one in the fall and one in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each meeting starts with breakfast. Then everyone gathers in a big room to watch a video on beliefs followed by small group discussion.

“This is the beginning of a glorious journey,” said Adorno Father Frank Palmieri, pastor of Jesus Our Risen Savior.

Father Kalaw agreed, describing the program as a rediscovery of man’s spirituality.

“This has nothing to do with the battle of the sexes,” Father Kalaw said. “We are looking for men to get more involved in the Church.”

And That Man Is You! helps.

Father Kalaw said men have always been focused on being financial providers for their families. Now they need to focus on becoming spiritual providers too.

The program started in Houston and has taken off nationwide. This fall, 450 parishes across the country will offer men its guidance, according to Greg Gibson, one of the core members of the program at Jesus Our Risen Savior.

His goal is for men to embrace their faith and become involved.

“As Catholics, we don’t do a good job of evangelizing,” he said.

When 106 men gather in the predawn of the morning to study their faith, it is a solid start to a new day ahead.

 

Civil rights anniversary a reminder of more work ahead

DIOCESE—It’s been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed, outlawing discrimination. It dismantled “separate but equal”, at least legally, but it took a long time and a lot of pressure to make it a reality.

Jacqueline Grimball Jefferson remembers those years well, because her family was right in the thick of it.

Her grandfather, Esau Jenkins, was a prominent local leader and worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., she said. When she was little, she remembers King and other national civil rights activists meeting and staying at her grandparents’ house.

Even at a young age, she and her siblings and cousins were all involved in the movement. At a 1967 rally in Charleston featuring King, 12-year-old Jefferson gave an impassioned speech about the scourge of poverty and the need for all people to work together, then introduced the famous activist.

The next year, in eighth grade, she joined a small group of pioneers at the High School of Charleston.

“That was just the start of integration; it was not easy,” she said. “I was submerged in an atmosphere where we really weren’t wanted.”

She described the racism she encountered as an ugly monster that had to be faced every day, leading to stress migraines in her teens. Sometimes the racism was physically threatening, such as the time a police officer pointed a bayonet in her face during the hospital strike of 1969.

She was 14 at the time, and joined the strike along with some other family members. She was arrested, along with many others, including local priests and religious sisters.

Jefferson described it as a form of war. There were threats on her grandfather’s life, tapped phone lines, and daily harassment. She said she wasn’t scared because her whole family was involved — that’s just what they did. She was also comforted by the support of the religious community, noting that sisters worked closely with her grandfather and were often at the house. Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler and others in the church were staunch, vocal supporters of desegregation and civil rights.

Jefferson said the bishop was a good friend of her grandfather.

That early association led to a reconnection in 1974 when Jefferson worked at St. Francis Hospital and met some Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, who had worked closely with her family.

Now she is the coordinator of the Wellness Center at the OLM Community Outreach. She said it is her way to continue giving back, to do just a little bit more each day.

Recently, she heard herself on tape for the first time, giving that speech from 1967, and said it moved her emotionally and in her desire to do more.

“It really brought tears to my eyes,” she said, because for all the big changes, the fight continues to fix the underlying issues of decent housing, education, jobs and true equality.

As people pay tribute to the achievements of the civil rights movement, Jefferson said the anniversary must also serve as a reminder of the work that lies ahead, adding that the world needs to return to the strategies of that movement, when all people came together to right injustice.

“Until we can come together and respect where each other’s coming from, racism will always be an issue,” she said.

 

Click timeline to view larger

The Catholic Miscellany: Civil rights anniversary a reminder of more work ahead - A timeline of civil rights in South Carolina

 

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