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3 Valuable Lessons from SCDSS

We are in one of the biggest shifts in child welfare that the United States has ever known, especially in the State of South Carolina. Special guests South Carolina Department of Social Services State Director Michael Leach and Deputy State Director of Child Welfare Services Karen Bryant met with us to discuss some of these changes and the opportunities we have to help children and families on their journey to healing and wholeness.

Three Valuable Lessons from SCDSS

1.) It’s all about prevention.

SCDSS is committed to preventing child abuse before it occurs. Leach and Bryant expressed their eagerness to empower organizations as they work with families toward common prevention goals. As you can imagine, it was a huge leap of faith for our leadership team to step into the community-based world more than seven years ago and to begin providing prevention-based programs. We were thrilled to hear Leach and Bryant’s passion for some of our programs like Building Families, Strengthening Families, Teen Moms, and Transitional Living which provide these unique prevention services.

2.) Family engagement is key. 

While reviewing our Early Childhood Development Center’s Family Outcomes Analysis, Leach reiterated the importance of family engagement. He said, “I don’t think you can just treat the child. We have to preserve the family by doing the things you’re doing here.” It’s important for us, Thornwell, to meet families where they are and lead them through the hard stuff. That’s why we are providing families with tools to build family plans, set goals and budgets, gain education and employment, and ultimately, learn what it means to be a family.

Left to Right – Thornwell EVP Lindy Scott, Deputy State Director of Child Welfare Services Karen Bryant, Thornwell Early Childhood Development Dir Jenn Adams, Thornwell Family Services Specialist Tennille Salliewhite, Thornwell VP of Education Norman Dover, Social Services SC State Director Michael Leach
3.) Together, we’re stronger. 

The need is great. There are far more families in need of help than there are organizations like Thornwell to support them. But together, we’re stronger. Leach reiterated his desire for service organizations to come together in an effort to strengthen our communities and build up the state of South Carolina. We couldn’t agree more! We are especially thankful for our partners like Early Head Start, SC First Steps, Duke Endowment, Children’s Trust of South Carolina, Community Action Partnership, Clemson, The Dougy Center, Gateway Counseling Center, and SCDSS who invest countless hours into this difficult, challenging, and beautifully rewarding work we have before us. Thank you!

Leach and Bryant featured with Thornwell team members, Gateway Counseling Center and Children’s Trust of SC representatives, and a special family who have graduated from and now lead Strengthening Families workshops.


Here at Thornwell, we desire to educate our communities on the needs that exist, while also addressing those urgent needs by providing hands-on support and prevention across our region. We hope, through our programs, to address the child welfare crisis at the root level, the family level. Our comprehensive continuum of care equips families wherever they are with practical tools and resources designed to increase a family’s ability to parent, connect, and communicate.

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