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Commentary: Child welfare professionals show up to protect children even during pandemic
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Commentary: Child welfare professionals show up to protect children even during pandemic

*Article originally appeared in the Post and Courier on May 26, 2020.

BY BEVERLY HARDIN

May 26, 2020

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, as everyone was just beginning to grasp the impacts it would have on our daily lives, I stumbled upon an old Fred Rogers quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

I didn’t have to look very far. Every day at Carolina Youth Development Center, heroes come to work, ready to provide a safe, healthy residential setting for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect and offer critical support and services for families and children in the Lowcountry.

This virus and a national quarantine is uncharted territory for all of us. No one has ever experienced a public health crisis of this magnitude or faced the uncertainties and resulting lifestyle changes. This stress adds to an already sensitive situation for children and youth in foster care, and the dedicated individuals who are charged with protecting and caring for them every day.

It could have been a time of incredible disruption and additional trauma for our youth. What it has turned into is an incredible story of resilience by both those who provide direct care, the helpers, but also by youth and families.

We hear about the first responders — the health care professionals, firefighters and police, grocery store clerks, maintenance workers, janitorial service providers — who have been on the front lines helping our communities navigate this pandemic.

But quietly among all these essential workers, less often mentioned are the child welfare professionals — social workers, case managers, house parents — who are still showing up, protecting kids, providing care and trying to maintain as much stability as possible during this time to children and youth who have already experienced trauma in their young lives.

This virus and a national quarantine is uncharted territory for all of us. No one has ever experienced a public health crisis of this magnitude or faced the uncertainties and resulting lifestyle changes. This stress adds to an already sensitive situation for children and youth in foster care, and the dedicated individuals who are charged with protecting and caring for them every day.

They are in our communities, setting an example of how to handle these challenging times for our youth and our community, all while making personal sacrifices by continuing to show up and lead by example and showing our youth real-life examples of commitment, compassion and dedication.

This commitment, the consistency these helpers are providing during a time of much uncertainty, is helping give the children, youth and families some sense of normalcy in a uniquely disruptive and traumatic time in all of our lives. For that, they are not just helpers. They are also our community’s heroes.

One night recently, I was leaving work and walking around one of our residential care campuses. I noticed how many balls were out in the yard, half-played games still out on picnic tables and other toys left strewn about after a busy day of activities. All I could think was that this is how childhood should look and that for many of our residents, this may be one of the first times they have had these experiences.

The opportunity to go outside and play all day with friends and come home to a warm meal and a soft bed is something many of us took for granted as kids. At CYDC, our staff is dedicated to our mission of providing that experience for all of our residents no matter what is happening in their lives or in the world outside our campus.

To find out more about the Carolina Youth Development Center or how you can support children and youth in the child welfare system, visit cydc.org.

Beverly Hardin is CEO of Carolina Youth Development Center. Founded in 1790, CYDC’s mission is to empower and equip our community’s children and families by providing a safe environment, educational support and career readiness in collaboration with community partners. CYDC is located in North Charleston and has a campus in Berkeley County.