By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Last year in the state of South Carolina, over 15,000 children were found to have been abused, neglected, or raped…that’s not cases where abuse was just suspected or investigated, but children for whom abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or abandonment, was founded. In our county of Darlington, that number is approximately 400 children.”
With these sobering statistics, Scottie Hill opened her July 20 address to a luncheon group at Wesley United Methodist Church in Hartsville. Though the problem is daunting, Hill said help is on the way as the Trent Hill Center for Children and Families is scheduled to open in September of 2017.
Named for her father, the late Trent Hill, the Center aims to provide a sanctuary for children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, or are homeless.
“That could be children who have been removed from custody in the middle of the night that need a safe place to stay – maybe only for 48 to 72 hours while a family member is found who can safely and adequately take care of them. In other circumstances, it could mean a temporary foster care placement who are awaiting reunification with their families,” said Hill.
By working in partnership with families, Darlington County DSS, Guardian Ad Litem, and other community agencies, the Center will develop family-centered plans for safe and healthy reunifications.
Hill said that in Darlington County, there are currently 95 children for who abuse has been founded (formally determined by case workers), but only about 20 of those kids have been placed in homes within the county.
“Those other 70 children have been placed as far away as Greenville, Sumter, Rock Hill, scattered across the state and separated from their siblings, moving in and out of foster care arrangements, far from home and close to no one that they knew,” said Hill.
She said the Trent Hill Center hopes to establish a local option to keep some of these children from being so profoundly uprooted and displaced. The Center will employ trained and qualified social workers and counselors to provide trauma-informed treatment to children placed in their care.
To begin with, the Center will provide housing for nine children, but their facility – the Bell House, a fenced home and property located on the Bobo Newsome Highway – has the potential to house up to fourteen children if necessary. Hill says numerous donated items have come in, and volunteer labor has helped get the property in shape.
“It’s absolutely positively amazing, the way that this community has rallied around our family and the Center, and what it is that we’re trying do here,” said Hill. “We’ve had so many donations that the entire house was filled with clothing, with books, with toys… we eventually had to find a temporary storage space to move everything so that we could get the furniture in.”
A community grand opening event is slated for August 26 at the Trent Hill Center, located at 522 W. Bobo Newsome Highway in Hartsville. The event will feature live music, a petting zoo, face painting, and plenty of yummy food such as hamburgers and hot dogs, watermelon, chips, and beverages.
Donations of money (and video gaming systems) are especially needed, and the Trent Hill Center is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. To learn more about the Center and how you can help, visit them online at www.TrentHillCenter.org, call 843-309-5502, or visit their offices at 121 N Fifth Street, Suite 200, in Hartsville.