What is Thornwell?
Thornwell Home for Children opened its doors in 1875 as a haven for orphaned children. This non-profit ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is one of the oldest children’s homes in our nation and is located in Clinton, SC.
Once an orphanage, today Thornwell serves abused, abandoned and neglected children – boys and girls in a range of ages from toddler to young adult. The majority of Thornwell’s children are private placements; however, some children come to Thornwell through the Department of Social Services. Thornwell’s program is not for offenders or youth with addictions.
With a goal of preserving families, Thornwell also offers services to parents and caregivers. Through community outreach and preintervention efforts, families can get help before the need for placement at Thornwell arises.
How many children are served by Thornwell?
Thornwell serves approximately 100 children annually in our residential program. There are 13 residential cottages with six to eight children in each home. In addition, Thornwell provides many opportunities for the children and youth in our local community to be involved on campus. The Thornwell Agriculture Education Center (TAEC) and the local high school agriculture departments partner to offer youth an opportunity to learn the particulars of a working farm and how to care for animals. Several times a year, the TAEC hosts hundreds of local elementary school children, introducing them to the animals on Thornwell’s farm. During the summer, mission groups from all over the southeast can be seen on campus volunteering their time and interacting with Thornwell’s children and youth.
How does Thornwell achieve its mission?
Thornwell is unique among children’s homes in that its ministry not only offers a safe, loving home for each child, but it also offers support programs that include physical and mental health care, a state-of-the-art Learning Center for academic support, a faith development and Christian nurture program, and a fully operational farm and agricultural program.
What contributes to the cost of caring for Thornwell’s children?
At Thornwell, we do much more than “house” children and meet their physical needs. We feel that as a Christian organization, we are called to do much more for God’s children.
Not only do we feed, clothe, and house Thornwell’s children, but we also provide loving, highly-trained, professionals caregivers called “Family Teachers” who regard their work as a calling. For this reason, our largest resource and expense comes in the form of human capital.
In addition to the best staff and Family Teachers we can find, we provide our children and youth with mental and physical healthcare, dental care, academic support, as well as encourage extra-curricular activities that allow each child to develop his or her God-given talents. After high-school graduation, Thornwell youth have the opportunity to go to college as well.
There are 13 individual cottages. Each cottage is home to 6-8 children and their Family Teachers. Many of these buildings are over 100 years old. And like all other dwellings, each home requires regular maintenance. In addition, with over 35 acres of campus grounds to maintain, our maintenance crew’s work is never done!
From the direct care and assistance to Thornwell’s children and youth, to maintaining the cottages, grounds and staff, it is the blessing of God and the generosity of Thornwell’s annual fund donors that sustains the ministry. Click here to view our most recent Annual Report on Ministry, including financial information.
How are children referred to Thornwell?
Children are most often referred by families, ministers, psychiatrists, or therapists. Some children come to Thornwell from the Department of Social Services because they have been removed from their families or because the adoption process has broken down. Thornwell accepts physical custody, but does not take legal custody of children. Click here to find out more about admissions to Thornwell’s program.
How does Thornwell care for children?
Our Teaching-Family Model (TFM) is a unique program designed to help children overcome negative behaviors and replace them with positive behaviors. Each child’s program is tailored to meet his or her needs; and youth are taught to self-advocate, so they can achieve their goals and dreams.
At the heart of our program are life-affirming relationships. Our Family Teachers develop lasting relationships with our children and youth, which promote a family-style setting that emphasizes positive learning experiences. Family Teachers are active role models and look for every opportunity to teach children what a healthy family looks like and feels like.
Each Teaching-Family home at Thornwell:
- teaches young people to value themselves and their family;
- assists youth in developing sound values, good principles, and high morals; and
- teaches social, academic, and self-help skills
Can Thornwell help strengthen the ties between the children and their biological families?
Yes! That is one of the primary goals of our program. At Thornwell, we work to reunite a child with their biological family, whenever possible. We are committed to building strong family ties, and we invite families to come and be part of our team effort.
Is spiritual nurture a part of Thornwell’s program?
For many of the children, Thornwell is their first exposure to Christian faith and to a family that loves and cares for them. For that reason, faith in God and Jesus Christ permeates every aspect of living at Thornwell.
Thornwell has its own full-time Christian Educator who works with the individual cottage families on a daily basis to help teach children the basics of the Christian faith. There are devotions in every cottage, Sunday school classes and worship services to attend on Sundays in the local community, youth group activities on Sunday evenings, and prayer offered before every meal.
Prayers open and guide Thornwell’s staff meetings as well. The children and staff also participate in service projects year ‘round to help teach and remember the importance of giving back. To learn more, click here.
How do the children receive academic support?
Thornwell children attend local public schools. Those who need academic support come to the Learning Center in the afternoons after school. Thornwell’s Learning Center has a state-of-the-art computer center, a fully stocked library and sixteen to eighteen tutors helping the children with homework and subjects that are challenging.
Generally, the circumstances that bring a child to Thornwell also caused education not to be a priority in the home. Many children come to Thornwell as much as 1 to 2 years behind grade level. However, with support and hard work, most are able to catch up within a few months. In addition to after school help, Thornwell students also participate in both the Accelerated Reader and Math programs. These programs help students to target problem areas and gain mastery over them in a relatively short amount of time. The children also participate in a summer reading program to improve reading skills.
How long can a child or youth stay at Thornwell?
Because of the support of Presbyterians from across the Synod, as well as other generous individuals and organizations, children can stay at Thornwell as long as they need to. This makes Thornwell unique among most children’s homes. Some children stay only one year; others stay as long as 12 years, depending upon the family situation.
In each case, Thornwell’s staff develops an individual plan for each child—with the goal always to reunite the child with members of his/her biological family, provided that reunification is safe and appropriate for the child.
Where do children go when they leave Thornwell?
Some return to their families once the home situation has stabilized. Unfortunately, sometimes families withdraw their children from Thornwell before we feel it’s safe or appropriate for those children to return to the family setting.
For youth who remain at Thornwell until graduation, many will go to four-year colleges, or to technical or trade schools for further education; some to military service. Our staff helps students find scholarship assistance and we are also able to provide some tuition assistance. Thornwell will also help graduating students prepare for the workplace and for independent living.
How is Thornwell funded?
Thornwell is almost entirely supported by private funding. This support comes primarily from individuals, Presbyterian churches, foundations, and businesses. Gifts from donors provide approximately 78% of the total revenue for Thornwell each year. Fees for services make up about 17% while investment income and gains provide the remaining 5%. For details, click here to view our recent Annual Report on Ministry.
Can I sponsor a cottage at Thornwell?
Absolutely! Just call our Advancement Office at 864-938-2700. There are many ways you and/or your church can help, including donations toward special occasions (such as birthdays, graduation, or Christmas), allowances, and clothing. You can also contact us to find out how you can help provide for the immediate needs in our Teaching-Family cottages. Visit our Sponsorship webpage to learn more.
Are there other ways I can support Thornwell?
Your prayers for the work and ministry of Thornwell are always needed! Your undesignated financial support and/or the support of your church help us provide for the daily needs and education of the children in our care. We also encourage you to contact the Thornwell Advancment Office to discuss how your estate can provide for Thornwell’s children beyond your lifetime. Click here to read about ways you can support Thornwell’s ministry.
Are tours available on the Thornwell campus?
Yes! Please call our Advancement Office to arrange your visit.