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12 Who Care: Foster care caseworker loves his work, treats kids as his own

Jim Beauchamp, a lead dependency case manager at the Children’s Home Society of Florida, treats children in his care as his own, according to his colleagues.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — He goes to great lengths to help others. He’s even gone "international."

Jim Beauchamp, a lead dependency case manager at the Children’s Home Society of Florida, recently learned a phrase in Vietnamese, just so he could officially address a family of sibling children he’d been helping at their court adoption.

“Thât khéo tay,” he said to them in the courtroom, meaning, “You’re in good hands now.”

Beauchamp’s colleagues, who nominated him to be among First Coast News’ “12 Who Care” said those children – and so many others he has served – had been in good hands all along.

 “Case managers like Jim are the ones that go above and beyond, who show up at the baseball games,” Jessica Henderson said. She oversees Beauchamp’s team totaling about 20 case managers.

The Children’s Home Society of Florida, located in Jacksonville, began in 1902 as a home for children and infants turned away by state orphanages. Henderson explained that the organization “wants to end foster care as we know it” by focusing on community solutions such as behavioral health and early childhood intervention.

But for now, much of Beauchamp’s work is handling a revolving roster of about 20 active cases at a given time, many or all of which involving families in foster care situations, i.e. children temporarily removed from their home because of unsafe situations. Those children and families, Henderson said, are typically in fragile circumstances that might entail substance exposure or inadequate parenting.

She said it takes a special kind of person to do what Beauchamp does. She added that even among such special people, Beauchamp stands out by giving generously of himself – often his free time, often on his own dime.

“[He] works after hours to go to the dance recitals, he knows the birthdays, he is their mentor, their biggest fan – because every kid deserves a biggest fan,” she said. “He has these tremendous relationships with these families. And when you have those relationships and that trust, they’re more likely to be successful.”

As for Beauchamp himself, when First Coast News met him it was clear that he was more interested in talking about his interactions and intercessions with kids than about how excellent he is at it all.

“I know there are more people that deserve [being part of 12 Who Care] more than me, but it’s an honor to even be nominated for something so prestigious,” he said, invoking the Golden Rule.

 “If I needed that help," he said, "I would want somebody to be there for me.”

 He also alluded to the concept of "paying it forward."

“In return [the children] will see how giving will help people, how it can provide a better future for someone else later down the line,” Beauchamp said.

Henderson instantly recounted a number of examples.

 “[Jim] got his car detailed so he could take a teen girl that’s on his caseload and her date to the prom,” Henderson recalled with a smile. “Because nobody wants to ride the bus to the prom – they got to ride in Mr. Jim’s cool car.”

 “We looked for dresses for her,” Beauchamp smiled. “We did all the accessories – now, I like accessories but I don’t know how to dress a girl. But it was pretty awesome, it was more of an experience for me, but it was a bright shining star for her because she got to go to prom looking nice and being escorted by someone that she cares for.”

And, driven by the best of chauffeurs.

“She was like, ‘Hey, can I put the top down?!’" he recalled. "She arrived in style!”

 When asked his favorite instance, Beauchamp spoke of two girls in his care who were adjusting to being outside their parental home. Perhaps distracted by all the tumult in their lives, their school grades began to suffer.

“One thing they loved was dancing,” he recalled, saying he wanted to encourage them with positive – not punitive – motivation. “I started thinking out of the box, so we started doing dance competitions for any time their grades were increasing or they did well at the home.”

 It was the giving part that came most naturally to Beauchamp, not the dancing part.

“I’m not a great dancer,” he confided, “but to learn new moves and learn how to interact with the young children and make their lives a little bit better, that was one of my favorite favorites.”

Jim has been with the Children’s Home Society of Florida for about three years. In his 30s, he has no children of his own, but it’s clear that in his own way he has adopted many and always makes room in his heart for more.

Henderson agreed that Beauchamp treats his children as if they were his own. 

“We’ve got kids with some more challenging behaviors,” Henderson said, “and the first thing is, like, ‘I hope Jim has room on his caseload to take on this kid.’”

When asked flat-out what makes him so great, Beauchamp demurred, “It’s out of my hands, you know, it’s a higher power.”

God’s hands, he said. But if you asked that family of children half a world away from their home of origin in Vietnam, Beauchamp’s hands are good hands to be in.

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