Thriving On Family – Palmetto Place Children and Youth Services’ Unaccompanied Youth Program

No teen is the same. They learn differently, they have different experiences, and they are in different stages of adolescence. Despite the countless difference, one thing remains true for all: teens want to be heard by someone they trust. Our partner Palmetto Place creates an environment where this is possible for all youth.

According to their website, Palmetto Place Children and Youth Services provide a safe and supportive environment for children and teens who have faced abuse, abandonment, neglect and/or homelessness. As a part of our Office of Adolescent Health funding, Palmetto Place is implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs within their Unaccompanied Youth Program.

“Any teenager needs this information, but especially since we’re working with an at-risk crowd, just to get them the information is important,” Courtney Tidwell, Direct Care Staff, said. “Information on healthy relationships is especially important because sometimes they latch on to whatever kind of relationships they can. It’s our responsibility to tell them a person might say they care about you, but you need to rely on their actions.”

Although Palmetto Place is 40 years old, their Unaccompanied Youth Program is less than 5 years old. This program prepares unaccompanied youth to live independently and reach self-sufficiency. Palmetto Place provides food, housing, clothing and wraparound services for teens ages 16-21 in Richland and Lexington Counties referred by school social workers and partner agencies. In response to the growing need in our community, the program recently expanded with a new house and 25 beds in 2016.

Staff at Palmetto Place strive to create a home for youth in their program. Beyond having a stable place to live and grow, the goal is for their youth to feel safe and as though they can trust the adults they encounter.

“At the end of the day, we’re a family,” Kamelle Frink, Lead Direct Care Staff, said. “We thrive on family. The beauty here is that everyone has something different to offer the teens.”

This family environment is key to ensuring that Palmetto Place’s youth feel comfortable enough to engage in conversations about safe sex.

“Whether the curriculum we’re teaching resonates or not with our youth, it definitely makes them more comfortable with us,” Tidwell said. “Those who have taken the curriculum talk to those who are taking it now and it builds trust through word of mouth. They know that they can come talk about safe sex or their relationship without feeling like they’re going to be judged.”

Though many of their residents enter Palmetto Place as a junior or senior in high school and stay through high school graduation, several of them have gone on to college, the military, or successful careers.

“We have so many success stories and we definitely keep in touch with them. We’re family, so after they leave they often contact us,” Frink said.

Want to know more about how you can get trained in a curriculum to guide the youth you work with? Reach out to