One of the success stories of the Healthy Steps Program in Little River and Myrtle Beach helps explain the goal of Children’s Trust of South Carolina to improve the overall well-being of the state’s more than one million children.
In a talk to the Rotary Club of Little River, Sue Williams, chief executive officer of Children’s Trust, based in Columbia, shared a few success stories provided by Healthy Steps coordinator Janelle M. Lavoie and specialist Megan Warren, both registered nurses. One of Lavoie’s reports concerned a young mother and her newborn son. The woman was “completely devastated ... suffering from post-partum depression” after the death of her significant other two weeks prior to her son’s birth.
The young mother, who had disabilities from a lifelong rare disease, moved to South Carolina to be with family and Lavoie connected her with a counselor and “various community resources to help ease some of her emotional and financial stress.”
The young mother and her baby moved to another state, near other family members, and Lavoie “found a program similar to Healthy Steps, provided her with a list of food banks, diaper banks and counselors in the area to which she was moving.” The woman often phoned Lavoie and reported continued progress.
“One day, the maternal grandmother called to tell me that I created a turning point in her daughter’s life that lead down a path of healing and happiness,” Lavoie said. “Because I took extra care with her and helped her, she was now a happy mother.”
The Little River Medical Center has two Healthy Steps home visitors, one each based in the center’s Myrtle Beach and Little River sites. Williams says the program is serving 50 families and is anticipated to have 130. Children’s Trust has several regional “prevention partners” across South Carolina, including Georgetown Pediatric Center. The Little River and Georgetown centers were among 38 state organizations that “received funding from Children’s Trust in their work to prevent child abuse, neglect and injuries,” according to the 2014 annual report of Children’s Trust. Funding recipients also include McLeod Home Health.
Children’s Trust of South Carolina was created in 2007 with the merger of four nonprofit organizations. Williams was executive director of Voices for South Carolina’s Children, one of the four merging organizations, and became CEO of Children’s Trust. Williams founded the group which became EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia. She was awarded the Order of the Palmetto for her work with EdVenture.
Children’s Trust is the S.C. partner for KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT “is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States,” according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center. It provides benchmarks of child well-being in economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
South Carolina ranks 45th overall in child well-being, Williams notes, ahead of only Arizona (46), Louisiana (47), Nevada (48), New Mexico (49) and Mississippi (50). In economic well-being, South Carolina ranks 41, with 288,000 “Children in poverty” (2012 data). That is 26.8 percent of S.C.’s 1,079,798 children. Horry County’s percentage was 32.5 percent. The U.S. percentage was 23. The 2012 numbers were worse on the county, state and nation levels compared to 2005.
Williams expects some improvement in the 2015 data but acknowledges there is a long way to go. As she said about the Healthy Steps Program for new moms, “Sometimes the littlest thing can be the biggest thing.”
[Hed]By the numbers
for Horry County
Children 0-17 in households with incomes below the poverty level - 32.5 percent (56,775 children)
Cumulative percent of children failing grades 1, 2 or 3 - 3.0 percent (S.C. 4.5 percent)
Low-birthweight babies - 9.2 percent (S.C. 9.5 percent; U.S. 8)
Family and Community
Children living in single parent families - 40.7 (S.C. 40.8 percent; U.S. 35)
– 2014 KIDS COUNT S.C. data