Paula joined our team as Client Intake Coordinator in September of 2019. You can find her professional bio here, but today is more about getting to who Paula is and why she chose this line of work. Here are her answers to a few get-to-know-you questions we asked:
What’s a problem or barrier in your area of work that you want to remedy?
Having worked with South Carolina’s public social services agency for over 30 years, I realize that foster and adoptive parents encounter systemic and specific barriers that cannot be addressed effectively without legal support and intervention. I firmly believe in the “Three R’s of Foster Parenting,” taught to me by my mentor – – Respect, Response, and Recognition. Foster parents deserve the respect of child welfare professionals; they deserve to be involved in decision-making and to be kept informed. Foster parents deserve response from child welfare professionals; their calls and emails should not be ignored – – their voices should be heard and they should receive factual, timely information. Foster parents should be recognized and supported by child welfare professionals; they open their hearts and homes to abused and neglected and take on work that even child welfare professionals cannot. It is my desire to improve the child welfare arena in South Carolina and to make sure that foster and adoptive parents are linked with supports that will enable them to provide safe, stable, permanent families for vulnerable children. Children should not be “stuck” in South Carolina’s foster care system because of systemic barriers in the child welfare agency and the courts.
What is a favorite/most rewarding part of your job?
- Being available to listen to foster parents and link them with a supportive legal services team that will ensure that their interests are protected and that they are well-represented in the child welfare legal arena.
- Being part of a team that helps grow South Carolina families through adoption.
Describe the circumstances that led you to choose this area of work:
I worked for South Carolina Department of Social Services for over 30 years, most recently as a Regional Director for the Pee Dee Region. I retired in 2019 when I no longer felt confident in the leadership of South Carolina Department of Social Services to improve the child welfare system and address the mounting concerns of children and families, including foster and adoptive families. After my retirement, I was determined to continue having a positive impact on the lives of abused, neglected, and at-risk children and the families committed to them. I decided that I could best do this by joining a legal team that serves foster and adoptive families.
Is there a quote or particular value that inspires you to keep going on the hard days?
My uncle, in 1963 at the age of 16, was in a diving accident and injured his spinal cord. I grew up in a family that was committed to providing for and taking care of him; we worked together to support him until his death in 2010. He worked diligently to be as self-sufficient as he could be, never complaining about his situation, regardless of how badly he felt. My strong foundation of family values, including work ethic and service to others, inspires me daily.
In 1888, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “ . . . what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” I focus on this on particularly rough days.
Name something you admire or appreciate about a co-worker and why:
I appreciate Yvonne Stewart; her background is in public child welfare, as is mine. Her service to families and to the law firm is commendable. She works daily to improve service delivery and to train others on improved processes.
I greatly admire our attorneys, Dale Dove and Jim Thompson. They both have personal experience with adoption and truly believe in building families through adoption. Adoption is not just a sector of legal work to them – – it is their primary focus and they are committed to providing excellent legal services for foster and adoptive families.
Name your top 3 podcasts or books:
David Pelzer’s first book, A Child Called “It“was published in 1995; it describes the abuse Pelzer suffered in his childhood. His second book, The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family was published in 1997 and covered Pelzer’s teen years. Both of these books have had a tremendous impact on me because of my ties to the social service arena. I re-read them occasionally to re-focus on the importance of the work of child welfare professionals.
I also like the The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. He writes about how trust—and the speed at which it is established with clients, employees, and all stakeholders—is the single most critical component of a successful leader and organization.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I am not working, I enjoy reading, boating, spending family time at the beach and in the mountains, and home improvement projects. I also enjoy working with Marion County Habitat for Humanity and the Disaster Recovery Program of the United Methodist Church Conference of South Carolina.
Do you have a favorite local place to eat, relax, or play?
I love the Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, and Pawleys Island areas of the coast of South Carolina. My family has a home at Litchfield Beach and we enjoy spending time together there, sitting on the beach, reading, talking, relaxing, and dining. I also enjoy relaxing and boating on local waterways and rivers, as well as whitewater rafting and exploring the mountains. My son, Hunter, and I are both University of South Carolina graduates and we are avid Gamecock fans; we especially enjoy Gamecock football and tailgating. Go Cocks!!!