The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina proudly presented six 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 6 outstanding individuals who were recognized at the Kinship Care Summits held in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. 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.
On October 27, 2017 Foundation President Tom Keith presented Christina Wilson along with Delores Wright Unsung Hero Awards at the Charleston Kinship Care Summit.
Christina and Jason Wilson
Jason and Christina Wilson have been married for over 16 years. They were nominated by Erin Hall and Megan Branham of the Palmetto Association for Children and Families, with help from Erin Walker, staff member at Child Abuse Prevention Association in Beaufort. They have a total of 5 children, four of whom joined their family through kinship care – Cady (15), Emmy (14), Ashleigh (12), and Aidan (10). Christina works as Executive Director for CAPA and Mr. Wilson works for the Beaufort Sheriff Department. Their story began 14 years ago when two of the children – Cady and Emmy – were in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. They were asked if they would be interested in a Kinship Care Relative Placement and their immediate answer was YES! They worked to obtain their South Carolina Foster Care licensing by making calls and pushing applications through at lightning speed to be able to secure Cady and Emmy as quickly as possible. They received the girls at 17 months and 5 months of age. The youngest, Emmy, had already been in 23 placements in just a few months. They secured an Interstate Compact between Florida and South Carolina which meant hundreds of hours traveling back and forth for court over the next decade. In 2008, they were contacted again about the same birth mother having 2 more children in the Florida Department of Children and Families. Ashleigh and Aidan came to live with them at 4 and 2, respectively, after being in multiple foster home placements. It took over 2,714 days to adopt Ashleigh and Aidan. Christina has been proactive and supportive about maintaining past relationships with positive connections for all her children. The Wilsons’ experience established a new Case Law in the State of South Carolina because of the length of time and continued roadblocks during their Kinship Care process to Adoption.
Delores Wright has been a kinship caregiver for 14 years. She was nominated by Andrea Thames and Kim Clifton, of HALOS located in Charleston. Delores received her grandson, Errick when he was just two days old, and one year later she also accepted placement of his brother Kenijah. Both children were involved in open child protective services cases due to substance use by their mother. After failure by both parents to complete their respective treatment plans, Delores accepted legal guardianship and then proceeded to legally adopt the boys in 2006 and 2007. She has consistently demonstrated her selflessness and commitment to caring for both boys since she has had them. She has faced many struggles financially while raising the boys on a fixed income of only $1,200 single social security payment. Delores has fought to keep the boys together and in kinship care their entire lives. Shortly after she took in the second child, her husband of 10 years was diagnosed with cancer and required frequent dialysis treatments. At one time she used to have to push her husband’s wheel chair with one hand and the stroller with the other. Not long after her husband passed away, their house burned down which resulted in their displacement for a three year span while she could save and repair the home little by little. She made the decision to get rid of her car when she realized she could not afford the car and the home repairs. Delores fought hard, and didn’t give up, not knowing how she was going to do it, hitting her knees in prayer. She ensures that the boys are not only happy and healthy, but ‘well rounded boys.’
On October 30, 2017 Foundation Board Member Lisa Bernardin presented Floyd Robinson, Jonathon and Lee Patterson, along with Gail Davis Unsung Hero Awards at the Columbia Kinship Care Summit.
Gail Davis has been a kinship caregiver for more than 15 years. She was nominated by Shannon Watson, who works at South Carolina Youth Advocate Program. Gail has custody of her grandchildren – Mikalen, Dalemarius, Sage and Tiffany. Gail took them in her care when they were toddlers because their biological parents were unable to care for them. She became a single parent when her husband passed away a few years ago, she also recently lost 2 sons. The three children state their grandmother is the best parent in the world, and they do not want to leave her side. Although Tiffany and Mikalen both have special needs, she maintains their wellness, activities and interests. They are active in church, school and extracurricular activities. Gail has faced multiple adversities. She shares her strength and willingness comes from God to make it through the toughest days.
Jonathon and Lee Patterson
Jonathon and Lee Patterson care for a high school student they are not related to. Jonathon and Lee Patterson were nominated by Joshua Patterson, Jonathon’s brother. Jonathon Patterson is a pastor, teacher and coach; his wife, Lee Patterson is a social worker. They were approached by the mother of a boy on the team Jonathon was coaching who was dealing with very significant health care challenges. The mother needed to move back up north so insurance would cover her medical visits and treatment. With only four days’ notice, they became parents to a teenage boy, taking him in, although they barely knew him. With a two year old of their own, overnight they became parents of a teenager. Answering the call, especially on the hard days, for someone you have no blood relation to is not too common; doing it for someone you practically don’t know is exemplary. They changed their work schedules, finances and renegotiated so many things, balancing between the desires of an absent, ill parent navigating disciple, boundaries, girlfriends, driving, colleges and more. They exemplify how anyone can step forward in time of need.
Floyd Robinson is the fictive grandfather to three children – Juliana, Alexander and Kylie. Floyd Robinson, was nominated by Mellinda Tyler, Kinship Care Coordinator at the South Carolina Department of Social Services. He is the common law husband of the children’s maternal grandmother who passed away. Although he has been actively involved with the children for the last ten years, he became the kinship caregiver for two of the children due to child protective services involvement in 2016. He shows empathy and a great deal of compassion – he drives the children to the bus stop every day in order for them to continue attending their same school, maintain continuity, and keep the siblings together. He is a constant person in their lives who provides for them each day. Living on a fixed income, he receives no financial assistance for the children, other than SNAP benefits. He finds additional resources and supports in the community. A retired mechanic, he ensures the children have meaningful connections to others.
On October 31, 2017 Foundation Board Chair Gerald Smalls presented Jillanda Amos an Unsung Hero Award at the Greenville Kinship Care Summit.
Jillanda Amos has been a kinship caregiver for several years. She was nominated by Kim Young, a foster care provider and family friend. In 2014, Kim Young and her husband were foster parents for a precious little girl, Dynesti. Several months after being in foster care, Young was told that an aunt on her father’s side was interested in taking Dynesti in. Jillanda works hard as a CNA to make ends meet. Over the past two years, Jillanda has struggled to adjust to additional expenses. When needed, she got a second job, working a third shift and then retail during the day. Jillanda has remained in contact with Dynesti’s foster parents, who are now her niece’s God Parents, as Jillanda recognizes the important role they played in Dynesti’s life for 14 months. Jillanda dreams of going back to school to get a nursing degree – and to teach her niece that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Jillanda’s fighting and caring spirit makes her the perfect role model for her niece. She wants the best life for her niece as possible and she does so with a smile on her face as a single mom. This is a perfect example of foster family and kinship family maintaining positive family connections. Jillanda continues to rise above, while caring for 5 year old Dynesti.