September Features: Cass Elias McCarter SC Guardian ad Litem Founder Legislative Update: GAL Study Committee GAL Voices: Amelia Sue McAbee, Betty Rudd, Ruth Chamness & Beverly Thomas Legal Update: Foregoing Reasonable Efforts Volunteer Conference
Volunteer newsletter of the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program
e. re. c i o V utu r u Yo ld’s F i h C A
Cass Elias McCarter: One Powerful Voice
an ad Lite
In 1984, a young woman from Columbia, South Carolina, worked tirelessly in establishing the first state funded volunteer program for child advocacy. Cass Elias McCarter (pictured on the cover) had a vision of protecting South Carolina’s children. Through perseverance and hard work, she secured a grant to start a volunteer Guardian ad Litem program. With the help of one assistant, she began to transform her vision into a volunteer force that would eventually blanket the state. Ella Reese Hinson, one of the first GAL volunteers, was hired as the coordinator to start the Marlboro County program in August of 1984. Working closely with local legislators and judges, Cass was able to quickly expand the idea to other counties. Within five years, a program was operational in every judicial circuit throughout South Carolina. In 1992, the Legislature placed the GAL program under the administration of the Workman’s Compensation Fund. In 1993, a state restructuring bill was passed, moving the Guardian ad Litem program to its current home as part of the Governor’s Office, (Office of Executive Policy and Programs). Cass was the director of the program for 8 years. After her retirement, she continued to dedicate herself to protecting and serving children in need. Through her work with Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, she devoted herself to improving the health and welfare of children and families in South Carolina. Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
Her husband, Nicky McCarter, remembers her special gift: “She made people feel like a million bucks. It didn’t matter if it was a person on the street or someone in a high office. I remember driving Cass home after one of her medical procedures. She was lying in the back seat of the car, when she saw a man with a sign, needing money for food. She made me pull over, and gave him $20. He asked for my business card, and promised to repay the money when he got back on his feet. Weeks later, he came to my office, and gave me the $20. He said to tell my wife he had cleaned himself up, and gotten a job. That was her way: if she saw a need, she would find a way to make a difference.” On March 23, 2004, at the age of 50, Cass Elias McCarter lost her life to a brain aneurism. To honor the legacy of this remarkable woman, The South Carolina Legislature passed a bill in 2010, changing the name of the program to the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program. Cass’s dedication to providing a voice for abused children was an inspiration to those around her. Amelia McAbee was a college sorority sister with Cass. She made a promise to Cass to consider joining the GAL Program after her retirement. Amelia kept her promise, and is now a volunteer. (Read more about Amelia on page 4) Although Cass did not live to see her vision completed, we think she would be very proud of the program she created. Starting July 1, 2010, every child with an abuse or neglect case in South Carolina Family Court has been appointed a volunteer Guardian ad Litem to be their advocate. Cass created a program that is now a nationwide model for the goal of serving all children. We are honored and grateful that our Legislature recognized the legacy of one dedicated person who gave a voice to all the children who suffer from abuse and neglect in our state. . SCGAL.ORG
Legislative Study Committee Update:
Louise Cooper, Director of the GAL Program, is cochairing a legislative study committee this summer and autumn that has two purposes: • To study the effectiveness of administration of the volunteer GAL Program, looking at the ability of the Program to advocate in a transparent and independent manner. • To study ways in which to monitor performance and establish accountability of GALs appointed in private family court actions involving custody or visitation. Others serving on the committee are: Lillian Koller, DSS Director and Study Committee Co-Chair; Senator Michael Fair, Chair of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children; Leah Johnson, Assistant Director of the South Carolina Bar; Carlene Sessions, volunteer GAL from Berkeley County; and Ann Miner, private attorney GAL from Pickens County. The study committee had its initial meeting in August. It will meet over the course of the next few months and submit a report to the legislature in January 2012. We will keep you informed of the progress. A special thanks to our own Carlene Sessions for her time and service.
A Life Well-Lived Cass Elias McCarter was a woman I wish I had known. Those who did know her always remark on her vitality, compassion and drive. She identified a need for the welfare of children and, by force of personality, focus and hard work she created a Program that this year will advocate for over 10,000 children. Cass’ life was regrettably short, but her impact lives on. She led the way for others to share her vision and change lives of children who have suffered. To live a meaningful life is to serve others more than to serve one’s self – a concept carried out by volunteer GALs everyday!
On Being Nimble. The dictionary defines “nimble” as: 1. quick and light in movement; agile; active; rapid: nimble feet. 2. quick to understand, think, devise, etc.: a nimble mind. Several years ago, a person involved in studying our organization referred to us as being nimble. I am very proud to be part of an organization that has both nimble feet and a nimble mind. We need to think and move quickly in these times, as things around us are changing rapidly, and we must adapt to new circumstances. This edition of the newsletter is a celebration of change. Many of you are aware of our name change by the Legislature to the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program. The new logo, and look of the newsletter are part of a public awareness campaign for the program, based on this concept: Your Voice. A Child’s Future. You as volunteers, are the core of the program, and your voices drive the changes that bring positive outcomes in a child’s future. While our organization is changing, other organizations are changing as well. The Department of Social Services, under the leadership of Deputy State Director Ms. Isabel Blanco, is instituting sweeping changes to meet their 2 Wildly Important Goals of increasing positive permanency for children by 6/30/12. We encourage you to attend the free Volunteer Conference on October 7 in Columbia, and hear Ms. Blanco’s perspective on permanency. (Details on page 7).
This is a life well-lived. To help others while you can and leave a positive legacy is a gift to God, yourself and others. We are so grateful to Cass for her vision and are proud to be a part of her legacy!
Cass Elias McCarter’s life was a testament to the idea that one caring person can make a difference in this world. As volunteers, we carry on that concept and honor her memory every time we advocate for a child to have a safe and loving home. Please continue with us on this journey.
Louise Cooper, Director
Cherie Walker, Editor
Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
GAL Voices: Amelia Sue McAbee Amelia Sue McAbee was inspired to become a Guardian ad Litem volunteer through her friendship with Cass Elias McCarter. “We worked together at Wofford for our sorority chapter. She was the national leader and I was the chapter advisor. That’s how I met her. We worked together on a national level that fall. I had never heard of the guardian program - it was so new.” Amelia Sue McAbee says she has been advocating for children all of her life. “If you teach and don’t advocate for children, you don’t belong in the classroom,” McAbee said. McAbee, who taught English to 8th graders for most of her career, is passionate about working with older children. “I feel very comfortable working with teenagers,” McAbee said. “Just like a lot of people feel more comfortable with the little ones.”
“I made Cass Elias McCarter a promise in the fall of 1986 that I would consider becoming a guardian as soon as I retired. She said “I want you to promise me that when you retire you will at least think about doing the guardian work. You’ll work with the teenagers.” She was a good friend - she was a good person. I promised Cass I would at least try - and I did. And that’s why I’m here.”
During the volunteer training, staff members get to know the new guardians and learn what kind of children they would prefer to work with. McAbee didn’t hesitate with her answer. “They asked what age I wanted to work with. I said teenagers,” McAbee said, smiling. “I want to help these children get to a point where they can be responsible, successful adults.” “And if they get in your face, just say, ‘I’ve been called worse than that by tougher than you - do you want to try again,” McAbee said, laughing. Since joining the guardian ad litem program in 2008, McAbee has been a guardian for 25 children and counting. McAbee said although you can’t always make it right for every child, you can at least give them a chance. “If we can just reach one or two a year - pull them away from the brink - then we have been successful. Don’t focus on what has happened to them -focus on how we can get them through it so we can move forward.” Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
Amelia Sue McAbee SC Volunteer GAL
“Cass was a bright and articulate person. She was everything I wanted to be when I grew up. She died far too young.” SCGAL.ORG
Your Voices: Connecting Volunteers
See our new GAL Video: “Your Voice. A Child’s Future. The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Experience.”
GAL Online Book Club!!
Join us each month as we read a different book, and post discussion questions and answers online. Wendi Rodgers, Public Awareness and Training Coordinator, is the host of the group. This month, we are reading “Finding Fish,” the memoir of former foster youth Antwone Fisher, that was made into a feature movie in 2002. Starting September 1, a new book will be featured. We explore issues related to child advocacy and child abuse. Earn continuing education credit and have fun following the discussion with your fellow volunteers.
Our Twitter feed has new information 34 times daily. We follow local stories, give current information about resources, and training, and help raise awareness in South Carolina of the issues facing our children. Follow us and be part of a conversation about child advocacy! Twitter.com/GALVolunteersSC Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
Since our last issue, our Facebook pages have been published for most counties. Thanks for visiting your state and county pages! You can visit the state page here: http://www.facebook. com/GALvolunteersSC. There are currently almost 200 people who “like” our page, and we’d love to have more of you! It’s a great place to find out about state happenings like the October conference, (see page 8!), as well as volunteer resources that can help you advocate more effectively for children. We post something new about once a day. Your county pages are updated frequently also, with news and pictures about your local events. We want to hear from you! Questions or comments about the newsletter? Ideas for a story? Want to become a volunteer? Contact me at 864-878-0861 or cwalker@oepp. sc.gov. Cherie Walker, Editor 1-800-277-0113
Your Voice: GAL Betty Rudd
Betty is the self described “matriarch” of the Kershaw program. Currently, she has 1 case which started with 5 girls but now has 4 as one has aged out. This is a case DSS got back in 2009 through our Resident Judge who had some of the girls before him in a juvenile matter. Over the years, Betty has followed these girls as they have been placed with relatives, in therapeutic foster homes and group homes, and at DJJ evaluation centers. She has participated in multi disciplinary staffings with DSS, DJJ, and Children’s Law Center. She has focused on their school issues particularly as they relate to placement changes and has brought concerns to the Court’s attention. Beyond her service to children, Betty is active in our GAL meetings, missing only when she has a previously scheduled event. She is a great role model for younger volunteers and a great advocate for the program with community leaders. These leaders are well aware of Betty’s vigilance, most especially State Legislator Representative Laurie Slade Funderburk who works closely with Betty in our program. Whether it be church work, volunteering at the Habitat Store, tennis, water aerobics, travel, etc. Betty stays on the go. She celebrated her 80th birthday in 2010; wow, does she make 80 look good! And that she chooses to remain a front line advocate for abused and neglected children is a gift for all of us. Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
GAL Betty Rudd was part of the first training class of the Kershaw County GAL Program in February 1988. As her son tells the story, his father had recently retired and was getting under foot. His mother told him, “Elmer, I married you for better or for worse but not for lunch!” So when Betty’s friend Carolyn started looking for volunteers for the program which she started in November of 1987, Betty signed up and has been a GAL ever since.
Pictured (l r) are Sandra Inabinet, Foster Care Review Board Member; Betty Rudd, GAL; and Lisa Franklin.
On February 16, Kershaw County GALs enjoyed a presentation by Lisa Franklin from the S.C. Foster Parents’ Association (SCFPA) who spoke about the SACK Project she developed for working with older foster youth who are aging out and attending college. Lisa is the daughter of Carl and Mary Brown who are well known throughout South Carolina for their dedication to foster children. SCGAL.ORG
Your Voice: Charles & Dana Ballew
There is a Child.
When you tuck your child in bed tonight Stroke that head so sweet and soft Gently saying sweet dream prayers Kiss that forehead and smile. There is a Child. Across the street and down the way trembling in the darkness Listening at familiar sounds Anger and Rage come closer That little heart beat pounds What defense can they offer?
Charles and Dana Ballew are substitute teachers with a passion for children. With two children at home and one in college, the Ballews’ backyard sometimes looks more like the neighborhood park than a residence. “We just love kids,” Dana said. “And when I saw an ad for guardian ad litem in the paper, I thought ‘Why not volunteer? Why not do something in the community?’” With full-time jobs, children and other activities, the Ballews squeezed together some time and started the training class together in 2009. “Before we started the class, a lot of people thought you had to have some big fancy degree,” Charles said. “But you don’t. You just have to care.” The couple says after working in the classroom you can tell which children don’t have a good home life, and volunteering allows them to help more than they can at school. “As a guardian you’re able to look at the big picture,” Dana said. “You can’t change the past, but you can help them accomplish what they need for the future.” Charles said small gestures can also make a huge difference in the child’s life. “One kid had an event at school and neither of his parents showed up,” Charles said. “He was sad. The other kids had their parents there. But as soon as he saw me he grabbed my hand and we took off down the hall. He introduced me to his classmates, his teachers - it put a big smile on his face.” Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
No running away. Just waiting in endless fear knowing all the while… There is a Child. Morning finds you feeding your little one so sweet. Thanking God for this Blessing Joyful sighs with happy feelings of relief . There is a Child. Across the street down the way broken, bruised and alone The rage is over the quiet once more Now hunger has come But no food nor smile no warm touch Just tears and helpless pain There is a Child. How do we help , what can we do? There’s only help thru you There is a Child. Please help a child today GET INVOLVED Call your local Shelters, Churches, Community leaders We can all do something. God will bless you “For what so ever you do unto the least of these you do unto me “
Written: November 2010 by Ruth Chamness, volunteer GAL . 1-800-277-0113
GAL Legal Tip: As a GAL, you have the right to file a “motion to forego reasonable efforts” under certain circumstances. Some examples are cases in which: • the parent has subjected the child (or another child in the home) to severe and repeated abuse or neglect, torture, sexual abuse, or abandonment •the parent has a history of drug or alcohol addiction that makes him unable or unlikely to be able to care for the child within a reasonable period of time. This law helps bring about permanence for children sooner. While it is important to give parents the opportunity to make changes that will allow them to be reunified with their children, the child welfare system needs to keep its eyes on the children and their needs. When the court agrees with you and grants your motion, DSS must file a TPR petition within 60 days. So if you think the facts of your case justify moving straight to TPR without trying to reunify, speak to your coordinator and attorney. If you’re curious about other details of the law, link to: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/ t63c007.htm and scroll to Section 63-7-1640 (Family Preservation). Thanks for your service!
Virginia Ravenel, GAL General Counsel Photo ID’s: Find a Public Awareness staff member at the volunteer conference and have your picture taken for your GAL ID badge! Look for Cherie, Wendi, Whitney or Tracee, and we will snap your glamorous picture on the spot! See you there!! Your Voice. A Child’s Future.
Children’s Law Center
FREE Conference for Volunteer GALs!
Permanency Planning For Children Friday, October 7, 2011 Workshops Include: Expanding your comfort zone: Gay and Lesbian Issues Overview of Drug and Alcohol Testing Family Group Conferencing Family Finding Legislative and Case Law Update Rights of Undocumented Children and more. Special Guests include: Jennifer Braun and Michelle Chambers, Ampersand Families; and Isabel Blanco, Deputy State Director SCDSS; Read the complete agenda and get the registration form here: http://www.scgal.org/images/ 2011conferenceregistration.pdf
There are only 400 spaces available, so please register as soon as possible. Please check with your county office about car pooling arrangements. Conference will be held at: Tronco’s Medallion Center 7309 Garner’s Ferry Road, Columbia SCGAL.ORG