The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina proudly presented three Unsung Hero Awards for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary care to enhance the well-being of children in South Carolina’s kinship families as part of our Kinship Care Initiative. Formal (licensed) and informal (non-licensed) kinship caregivers in South Carolina who provided care for a relative’s child throughout the preceding year or longer were eligible for nomination, including fictive kin.
We received multiple nominations from across the state and selected three outstanding individuals who were recognized at the Kinship Care Summits held in Columbia and Greenville. Due to inclement weather, the Charleston Summit was cancelled. Each Unsung Hero had different stories representing the spectrum of kinship families. “We are honored to recognize the selflessness and dedication of kinship caregivers who lovingly sacrifice to provide for the children in their care, through the Foundation’s Unsung Hero awards,” Tom Keith, Foundation President.
Mr. Reggie Monroe
Reggie Monroe cares for his three nephews, twins Dontavious and Montavious (8) and Kw’eili (9). He was nominated by Elizabeth McGuan, Program Manager, HALOS.
Originally from Dillon County Mr. Monroe moved to Charleston eight years ago for a new job and a fresh start. As the oldest of six siblings, Reggie can recall enjoying helping his single mother care for his younger brothers and sisters while growing up. Continuing to have a close relationship with his siblings, Reggie was informed of his younger brothers’ substance abuse problems which kept him completely out of touch with his three children. As a result, Reggie never was able to form a relationship or even meet his nephews.
Due to allegations of neglect, DSS became involved. Battling her own mental illness, their mother was later hospitalized and the boys were placed into foster care. Hearing this, Reggie stepped in and went back and forth to Dillon to be present at every hearing to support his brother and hopefully help his nephews get out of the system.
Through patience and thorough evaluation, the family learned that one of the 8-year old twins, was on the autism spectrum while the other twin, needed pelvic surgery. In addition the nine years old was displaying serious emotional problems. Reggie knew that he needed to address their challenges first in order to help them adjust and grow into their strengths.
Despite fear of losing his job due to all of the time away from work he remained vigilant in obtaining more information. He learned about the boys medications, took them to child advocacy centers for interviews and therapy, and attended countless visits with specialists, school officials and doctors.
Reggie faced many obstacles in stabilizing the family’s situation. He went from a one person household to supporting a family of four. Regardless of these obstacles, he sees no step made as a sacrifice. In January 2017 Reggie was awarded legal custody of his three nephews. He humbly says that this process helped him understand what type of parent he needed to be for the boys, and helped him learn how to parent for the very first time.
Abigail J. Strudwick was nominated by Melissa Strompolis, Volunteer Guardian with Richland County CASA.
In July of 2017, Ms. Abigail (Abbi) Jean Strudwick was a 20-year-old college student at the University of South Carolina-Upstate. She was in her second year taking general classes and working to pay for school. Abbi’s family resided in the Midlands – her parents and younger sister in Irmo and older sister and nephew in various Midlands residences.
Also in July of 2017, Abbi’s nephew (son of her older sister) tested positive for substances and in a neglectful home, as a result he was placed into foster care. Within a few days, Abbi’s mother and father were able to get their grandson out of foster care and into their guardianship. Two months later, however, their family fabric came undone. Abbi’s father died unexpectedly in a car accident (he was a first responder, attempting to assist during Hurricane Irma) and Abbi’s mother fell out of recovery and back into alcohol misuse.
At that time, Abbi’s nephew and her younger sister were placed into foster care. Without hesitation or anyone asking, Abbi immediately left school and came home to take care of her nephew and sister. Abbi applied and received guardianship of her nephew and sister. Not only did Abbi drop out of college to do so, she also found a job to help support the family. Abbi became and did everything a mother or father would do for their children.
The resilience that Abbi demonstrated cannot be over stated. Abbi had to put aside her anger toward her older sister, her grief over the loss of her father, and her disappointment of her mother to provide the best possible care for her nephew and sister. Abbi, a newly minted young adult, had to adjust quickly to not only becoming a parent but also navigating the various services systems that support children and families in South Carolina. She did this all without complaining or thinking about herself. Abbi’s mother is back in recovery and has received guardianship of her youngest daughter and grandson and that Abbi is currently back in college.
Denise Craddock Hannon
Denise Craddock Hannon, was nominated by Rhonda Goodman, Case Manager, DSS.
In the middle of the night Mrs. Hannon and her husband received a phone call from law enforcement to pick up their grandson. Without question or a second thought they jumped in their vehicle and drove from Taylors to Newberry to get their grandson. While this situation has not been easy they have both given and shown love, concern, dedication and promise to their grandson.
It is Mrs. Hannon’s hope that the relationship between mother and child can be rebuilt. To foster a deeper connection Mrs. Hannon encourages her grandson’s mother to do what is necessary to be reunited with her child such as completing her classes, finding employment, and finding housing closer to her son. In the care of his grandparents he has thrived being exposed to new experiences and summer trips, excelling in school and remaining involved in outside activities. It has not been an easy road without support from her grandson’s mother or father, but she endures because her love for her grandson is never ending.