Fred Rogers is quoted as saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. ‘”
Foster care is messy. Those involved will be confronted with trauma, pain, suffering. They must hold space for burden and hardship and struggle. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, and downright impossible somedays.
That is one reason we try our best to look for the helpers, and offer a “thank you” to those going above and beyond in big and small acts of kindness.
Nicholas Lee, Director of Foster Care for Epworth in the Pee Dee Region, has been named the April 2022 Local Foster Care Innovator by Fostering Great Ideas for his determination to go above and beyond to support the foster care community.
Lee was nominated by a community advocate, Linda, who describes Lee’s acts of service to his community and to children and families. She recalls how Lee consistently attends children’s ball games and birthday parties, how he stays connected to youth after they age out of foster care.
He is always advocating for foster care and the needs the kids have and the work doesn’t stop when he leaves work. He has such a passion for the kids and is going above and beyond to find them safe homes.
As the Director of Foster Care for Epworth in the Pee Dee Region, Lee is responsible for supervision and oversight of the foster care program which includes recruiting, licensing, and supporting foster parents to care for children and youth who enter foster care in the area.
Simplified, high caseloads lead to high stress. High stress leads to burnout. This issue of staff turnover must be addressed. The work of child welfare, family care, is hard work and we should praise those committed to doing the work well. It is easy to get frustrated when we see the system failing or falling short. It is easy to point fingers when the ball is dropped, and reform and accountability are important. But there are so many helpers and heroes out there doing good work – great work – both behind the scenes and on the frontlines.
Kendra Faile, Senior Director of Foster Care, stated, “Nick has been leading his team in building the Epworth Pee Dee Foster Care Program. It takes a lot of hard work to recruit, license and place children in those licensed homes. The level of support he and his team have offered the youth and the families has been exceptional. We are excited to see the continued growth of the Pee Dee program under Nick’s Leadership.”
Lee, who has a Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling from the Citadel, has dedicated his life to the service and support of at-risk children. Volunteering with an aunt from a young age at a local children’s home, Lee was inspired to pursue a career in child welfare. He is proud of the work that his team and the larger Epworth team is doing to provide a high level of support to kids and families across the state. As he says, “we are trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Today there are 4138 children and youth in foster care in South Carolina. 183 of those children and youth are from Florence County. There are not nearly enough families to welcome them. Finding loving homes for teenagers is a top priority. 33.95% of those in foster care statewide are ages 13-17.
How can you support those working hard to serve children and families today? Maybe it is a simple act of kindness, a written note, a text to say “thank you” for the work you do. Maybe it is stocking a coffee cart or a snack cart at your local social services office or foster care licensing agency. Maybe it is a small gift of gratitude to show your appreciation.
We have included Nick’s Amazon wishlist for his team. His team has asked for family games and gift cards for the families they serve.