230 Years of Capacity Building, Community Engagement, and Sustainability

230 Years of Capacity Building, Community Engagement, and Sustainability

*The below is an excerpt from a recent historical review provided to the Child Welfare League of America for a collection of national stories on child welfare.

For 230 years, Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) has been a pioneer in the field of child welfare. Founded as the Charleston Orphan House in 1790, it was home to the state’s first kindergarten program. Through strong community engagement, creative capacity building, and innovative sustainability practices, South Carolina’s oldest continuously operating non-profit is a leader in protecting children, empowering families and preparing youth for adulthood.

Today, CYDC carries on the tradition of serving the greater Charleston community and has transformed traditional residential services to innovative community services for youth and families in the foster care system. CYDC has adopted the Teaching-Family Model, which focuses on the importance of establishing solid relationships with caregivers to best provide treatment and support to youth. This approach has helped our youth work toward healing from trauma, gain life skills that allow them to eventually live independently and form relationships with mentors and peers. CYDC currently runs four fully functioning residential group homes in the Charleston area serving youth from 13 counties across the state, employing this approach.

CYDC’s newest addition, Nu House, provides transitional housing for youth aging out of foster care. This independent living home for young adults 17 to 21 year olds allows them to live in a supportive environment that focuses on helping them transition with confidence. Houseparents assist youth with everyday skills including budgeting, cooking, buying and maintaining a vehicle, and gathering documents such as birth certificates and licenses, all of which are geared towards independent living. With the help of the Department of Social Services (DSS), this model has played an important role in driving state-level changes to increase services for youth aging out of foster care. 

Much of CYDC’s success is made possible through strong partnerships with local organizations. CYDC is a provider of the nationally recognized Strengthening Families Program, supported by Children’s Trust of South Carolina, which provides families with a 14-session program aimed at helping families develop positive discipline practices, reduce conflict, improve parenting skills, and assist children with social skills, relationships, and school performance. Over 400 hours of career readiness education was completed in 2018 with help from partners including Cummins, Boeing, Carolina Studios, The Citadel, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and The Music Battery. CYDC also works with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to run a Teen After-School Center and Freedom Schools, a summer program, in collaboration with The Children’s Defense Fund. This diverse array of services not only ensures youth receive the support they need but have been essential to CYDC’s sustainability. 

Through decades of social, economic and political change, CYDC has kept its commitment to children, families and the community while remaining innovative and adaptive. CYDC’s dedicated leadership and strategic use of resources is unparalleled and continues to distinguish them as one of the leading child and family serving providers in South Carolina.