abuse

K is for Kindness – A to Z on Child Abuse Prevention

There is no excuse for abusing and neglecting a child. Factors such as drugs and alcohol or a history of victimization of the parent/guardian substantially raise the odds of abuse in a home. But there is also a correlation between abuse and the inability or refusal to deal with the everyday stressors in life. Parents and guardians lacking the support systems and coping skills to handle the responsibilities and hard work that go into caring for and raising a baby or multiple children, regardless of their socio-economic status, can create high-risk situations for children in those homes.

K is for Kindness Child Abuse Prevention Month

Just a little can mean a whole lot.

Sometimes it seems like every door is closing in your face. That no one hears you or even sees you. That you are doing it all on your own and you are doing it all wrong. That you will never NOT feel like you do right now. This kind of despair in the adults of a household can breed devastating results in the home.

 

One small ray of sunshine. One breath of fresh air. One break in the madness. When faced with an impossible situation, one touch of hope may change your life. It could make such a difference why would you not run out your door and do one of these things Right Now?

HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON A FAMILY IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Kindness Child Abuse Prevention Month

Give a helping hand.

 

 Random Acts of Kindness that won’t cost you much time or money but to someone they could mean EVERYTHING.

  1.  Say “Good Morning” to the person standing next to you in line or on the train.
  2. Pay the toll for the driver behind you.
  3. Write a letter and put it in the mail to someone, young or old. Remember how great it felt to get mail that wasn’t a bill or ad.
  4. Offer to make a grocery store run for an elderly neighbor or the lady next door who has four kids.
  5. Give a homeless person your left overs when you leave a restaurant. Especially if you’re pretty sure it’s going to end up in your trash or trashing your diet.
  6. Put a coin in a meter that has expired or getting ready to expire.
  7. At the grocery store, don’t let anyone put back groceries because they are a dollar short if you have a dollar to spare.
  8. Hold the door for a mother/father with children or pregnant woman, even if it takes a really long time.
  9. Look someone in the eyes and wish them a good day like you mean it.
  10. If you see someone struggling with their children in public it is stressful for everyone around. You don’t want to offer to help with the kids. That can be either scary or insulting. But do offer to help with the task the kids are making more difficult. Help get the stroller through the door. Give up your seat so she can put a kid there. Carry her tray to her table for her so she can hold her kids hands or push a stroller.
  11. Say “Please” and “Thank You” and “Excuse Me” like you mean it to everyone. It’s not just respectful… it’s refreshing.
  12. Let a car in your lane. You are now one car length further from reaching your destination but you might have just prevented some road rage.
  13. Offer to baby sit for a mom.
  14. Stop what you are doing and concentrate everything on listening to someone who needs an ear.
  15. Use the comment/complaint box to compliment great service you received by name.
  16. Offer a hug without question or advice.
  17. Ask “How are you really doing?” when the usual response of “fine” doesn’t seem fine at all.
  18. Leave a really good tip for really good service. A lot of times 15% seems like too much but sometimes it is not enough.
  19. If you are able, pick up the tab of a person or family when you are out eating. (Someone did this for me once when I was out with my kids who were acting like miniature hooligans. I didn’t need it but thinking of it now feels like walking in soft sunshine which isn’t even close to how wonderful it felt at the time.)
  20. Smile at the people you pass.
  21. Donate food and items directly to food banks, women’s shelters and children’s homes. Goodwill is great but they sell your items to fund their efforts. A woman in a shelter could use your never-wear suit on a job interview. That crib will never be empty at the children’s home. And the green beans your husband won’t eat will sure be tasty to a hungry family.
  22. Say something nice to everyone you speak to today.
  23. If it seems like someone could use a chance to vent (friend or stranger), create an opportunity and a space for them to do that. You don’t need to solve their problem. Just let them get it out.
  24. Let people in line behind you go before you if it makes sense. They have one item or are obviously in a hurry. The kids are crying or you have a circumstance you know will tie up the line for a while. Things like that could be little to you and a lifesaver for someone else.
  25. Leave your change in the snack or soda machine. Finding a few coins makes it seem like good things are coming your way.

J is for Juvenile Justice – A to Z on Child Abuse Prevention

Many studies have been done showing that child abuse can lead to many unfortunate outcomes later in life. In “F is for Facts” you saw that children who experience child abuse and neglect are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. These startling numbers show once again that child abuse affects everyone. It is a human race problem when the actions of abusive and neglectful family life create a traumatic environment that is insufficient for proper mental, physical and social growth.

 

Many victims end up in the juvenile justice system.

Many victims end up in the juvenile justice system.

Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59%, as an adult by 28%, and for a violent crime by 30% according to a study published in 2001 titled “An Update on the ‘Cycle of Violence’”.  We have an huge justice system in this country and we also have a very extensive child protection system but they do not always work together and when a victim falls through the cracks of the protection system they often end up in our jails, further victimized and removed from the help they need to recover.

This graphic from the US Census shows the reported child abuse numbers by state, giving you an idea of the impact in your area if you do the math of how many of these children are going to end up committing a crime.

US Census Numbers on Child Abuse by State

US Census Numbers on Child Abuse by State

There is a way to make the system work better. Some cities are instituting some smart processes that could make an impact but many are not. I invite you to view this short video on Innovations in the Juvenile Justice System and think about what can be done to in your area to help victims not become part of the system.

 

 

I is for Involved – A to Z on Child Abuse Prevention

You’ve heard the stories. You’ve seen the statistics. The chances are pretty good that child abuse has touched your world if not personally then with someone you know in your family or community. We all know its wrong, and it must stop.

So what do you do? How can you get involved in the fight against child abuse?

Get Involved.  You can make a difference.

Get Involved. You can make a difference.

A is for Advocacy of this Blogging Series discussed a few of the many ways you can contribute to the fight against child abuse by speaking out and educating people. Here are some suggestions on additional ways to get involved.

The Short List to Getting Involved

Get to know your neighbors. Problems seem less overwhelming when support is nearby.
Help a family under stress. Offer to babysit, help with chores and errands, or suggest resources in the community that can help.
Reach out to children in your community. A smile or a word of encouragement can mean a lot to a child, whether from a parent or passing stranger.
Be an active community member. Lend a hand at local schools, community or faith-based organizations, children’s hospitals, social service agencies, or other places where families and children are supported.
Keep your neighborhood safe. Start a neighborhood watch or plan a local ‘night out’ community event. You will get to know your neighbors while helping to keep your neighborhood and children safe.
Promote child well-being in your personal life by being very conscious of your daily involvement and interaction with your family and other families.  30 Ways to Promote Child Well Being Child Welfare.gov provides a bunch of great little tips in this calendar:  CAP Parent Engagement Calendar

When you are ready to make a real commitment to getting involve you could:

  • Register to vote and get to know your elected officials. Taking an active role in the election process helps get policy-makers who are passionate about what you are passionate about in office and in a position to make changes that give more protection to children and victims. Be the voice of silent victims and communicate your concerns to your local city council, state legislators and federal Congresspersons. Meet face to face, write your policy-makers, and call your elected officials.
  • Use your influence to get the word out that there is a problem that needs to be addressed at a local and national level. Even if your circle of influence is five Twitter followers from India and a Facebook friends list of eight that includes your mom and five brothers you are still and influencer of people. You can speak to your professional associations, service clubs or religious institutions. Don’t spam people in person or online, simply get the word out about events, tell your personal story, engage in dialogue and get feedback on what other people are thinking and feeling. This educates the masses and can create partnerships that can affect change.
  • Become a volunteer or a leader. There are literally thousands of organizations that could use your help in their programs. The previous post “Giving Safely – an A to Z Bonus” details ways you can check if organizations you are interested in are legitimate. If you are unaware of the organizations in your community you could volunteer I’d like to make a suggestion. Simply go the search bar of your favorite internet home page and Yahoo, Google, or Bing “Child Abuse [your city]”. You’ll likely get some local news you were unaware of but you will also get a list of organizations in your area. You can also call 2-1-1 to find out about organizations that support families in your area. Do some research, check their background if anything seems off and find a few hours in your month that you can stop what you are doing and help the children in your community. Working with children and for a cause can be extremely rewarding and gratifying. Even if it is stuffing envelopes or making phone calls, all levels of volunteerism DO help.

Take a moment to think about what you could do towards the prevention of child abuse and how you could help victims. And then take the MOST IMPORTANT STEP and do something. Taking action makes a difference.

G is for Guidelines for Reporting Abuse – A to Z on Child Abuse

You have the power to save lives.

You have the power to save lives.

Child abuse is an ugly subject. Even people who dedicate their lives to helping children want to block out the visions, sounds and memories that echo in the aftermath of meeting victims of abuse. So what are you to do when you suspect something might be happening but not knowing how you could help, feel powerless to help a child suffering under the monster that is child abuse?

Today you can arm yourself with the knowledge that you can protect a child, and help an entire family, by properly reporting the suspected or obvious mistreatment of a child. Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. You could save a life.

Identifying Child Abuse

Child abuse is defined as any intentional, emotional, physical or sexual injury to a child. These abuses can take many, many forms. Laws and levels of intervention differ from state to state but here is a very generalize list of identifiers of child abuse.

PHYSICAL ABUSE

Bruises, such as those caused by hands, fists, electrical cords, clothes hangers, and belts | Internal organ injury which can be difficult to detect but may lead to internal bleeding |   Bone fractures, especially arms, legs, and skull   |   Burns from such things as cigarettes, lighters, and stove burners   |   Lacerations caused by knives, razor blades, or other sharp objects

SEXUAL ABUSE

Inappropriate sexual touching   |   Fondling   |   Rape   |   Prostitution   |   Pornography   |   Forcing a child to perform or help to perform any sexual behavior

EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Constant belittling, shaming and humiliation   |   Frequent yelling, threatening or bullying

NEGLECT

Physical neglect involves a spectrum of behavior ranging from refusing to provide basic nutrition or necessary health care for the child to total abandonment of the child   |   Emotional neglect has a wide spectrum of behavior starting with the absence of adequate adult affection toward the child and includes exposing the child to physical violence and/or arguing/fighting between parents   |   Educational neglect occurs when the child’s caretakers fail to provide the child with an adequate educational experience

 

Reporting Child Abuse

Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. Not only for victims, Childhelp can connect those who want to report abuse to the correct resources.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).

If you witness child abuse or neglect contact your local law enforcement agency so a professional can intervene immediately. If you suspect child abuse or neglect or have witnessed a situation you find concerning you can refer to this list of State Child Abuse Reporting Phone Numbers to get more localized assistance in finding your next step.

Note that in some states any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it. You can check your states standings on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect online in the linked pdf.

F is for Facts – A to Z on Child Abuse Prevention

Children are abused on an epidemic level worldwide and sadly America’s numbers are gruesomely  high for a nation know as a world leader. I’ll give you the cold hard facts here and encourage you not to simply take my word for but to further educate yourself (AND OTHERS) using the sources links at the bottom of this post.

Note: Because national and state agencies collect and analyze their data in different ways, statistics will vary. Taking into account the under-reporting of abuse we can assume that these numbers would higher and NOT lower if all variables were removed.

 

THANK YOU FOR CARING!

 

THE FACTS:

  • Every year 6 million children will be part of a child abuse report.

  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.

  • Approximately 70% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.

  • Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.

  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

  • In one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

  • 14% of men and 36% of women in prison were abused as children – twice the frequency of the general population.

  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy and more likely to engage in sexually risky behavior.

  • Parents who abuse alcohol and drugs are three times more likely to abuse their children and four times more likely to neglect them.

  • As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abuse or neglected as children.

  • Adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect are three times more likely to have a substance abuse disorder before they are 18 years old.

 

Borrowed from Spydersden.wordpress.com

Borrowed from Spydersden.wordpress.com

Sources:

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2013). Child Maltreatment 2012. Available from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment
  2. United States Government Accountability Office, 2011. Child maltreatment: strengthening national data on child fatalities could aid in prevention (GAO-11-599). Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11599.pdf
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau.Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2011: Statistics and Interventions. Retrieved from http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/fatality.pdf
  4. Snyder, Howard, N. (2000, July). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: victim, incident, and offender characteristics. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
  5. Long – Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.cfm
  6. Fang, X., et al. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect (2012), doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.10.006 Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213411003140
  7. Harlow, C. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. (1999).Prior abuse reported by inmates and probationers (NCJ 172879) Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/parip.pdf
  8. National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence. Parental Substance Abuse A Major Factor In Child Abuse And Neglect. Retrieved from http://www.nccafv.org/parentalsubstanceabuse.htm
  9. Swan, N. (1998). Exploring the role of child abuse on later drug abuse: Researchers face broad gaps in information. NIDA Notes, 13(2). Retrieved from the National Institute on Drug Abuse website: www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol13N2/exploring.html
  10. Every Child Matters Education Fund. (2012). We can do better: Child abuse deaths in America (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://www.everychildmatters.org/storage/documents/pdf/reports/can_report_august2012_final.pdf
  11. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children’s Bureau. Goldman, J., Salus, M. K., Wolcott, D., Kennedy, K. Y. (2003) A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice, Chapter 5, retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/foundation/foundatione.cfm
  12. Wilson, E., Dolan, M., Smith, K., Casanueva, C., & Ringeisen, H. (2012). NSCAW Child Well-Being Spotlight: Adolescents with a History of Maltreatment Have Unique Service Needs That May Affect Their Transition to Adulthood. OPRE Report #2012-49, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/youth_spotlight_v7.pdf
  13. Amy B. Silverman, Helen Z. Reinherz, Rose M. Giaconia, The long-term sequelae of child and adolescent abuse: A longitudinal community study, Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 20, Issue 8, August 1996, Pages 709-723. retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213496000592

 

Giving Safely – an A to Z Bonus

When giving from the heart or from the wallet you want to trust that the organization you are giving to is legitimate and using the money in a manner you support. Your good deed should not end up involving you in a scam or under-performing association.

Donations Appreciated

Please continue to give.

Here is a quick list of websites you can use to get the facts behind your nonprofit of choice – especially if the organization has approached or solicited you personally for a donation.

1.  The IRS has a search option for IRS exempt status charities.  Charities must register with the IRS for your donations to be tax deductible so consider this when donating money.  There are some very small, local charities that do not enjoy tax-exempt status and there would be more risk involved in giving.

2.  GuideStar.org was the go-to resource for verifying a nonprofits status when I worked in corporate gifting.  Over a million charities are listed and have met IRS criteria for exempt status.

3.  Charity Navigator is a great tool when you want to compare nonprofits as it ranks charities based on their efficiency, transperancy and accountability on a four star system.

4.  The Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance gives information about charities and publishes a quarterly guide on wise giving as well as issues alerts on scams.  Vetted charities are given the BBB seal to display online and in print.  You can scroll through the A to Z index or search by category or name.

If you feel you may have encountered a scam:

Contact your state attorney general’s office (National Association of Attorneys General listing) as they are responsible for investigating fraud such as nonprofit scam.

Additionally, if you feel you may have been solicited by a fraud nonprofit you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.  This website is a comprehensive resource on charity scams.

Precautions with phone and email solicitations:

Many scams are run through telephone solicitations and we have all seen the spam emails so what can you do to protect yourself from fraud?  If the organization sounds like something you would like to give to then request printed materials from the organization.  NEVER give your credit card or banking information to an organization who called you – do your research and contact them back.  If something sounds off, trust that instinct and check your resources to verify the organization and report suspicious solicitations.

Make no mistake that I believe that donations are a vital part of the continuing the fight against child abuse.  I just want you to see your donation go to actually helping the kids and to protect yourself from the small minority of scam artist who prey on good hearted givers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D is for Donations – A to Z on Child Abuse Prevention

D  is  for  Donations - A  to  Z  on  Child  Abuse  Prevention

Click this emblem for a comprehensive list of national Child Abuse Prevention organizations that could benefit from your donation of time, skill or money.  All the information is detailed to make informed decisions on which organization is the best fit for your efforts.

 

C is for 1-800-4-A-CHILD – A to Z on Child Abuse

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD

Childhelp National Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD Childhelp National Hotline

Children are helpless and unable to make informed decisions. Lacking the strength to resist or escape a violation they have every right to expect the protection and support of adults. When this doesn’t happen there is a betrayal of trust that has a profound effect on the mind and actions of the child. It’s important that steps are taken to provide a renewed sense of security within the child and heal the damage done to the fullest extent it can be healed.

Part of this process has to include counseling.  A person, let alone a child, cannot be expected to handle the aftermath of abuse with the reasoning and coping skills one would apply to other negative interactions in their lives. Abuse can have lifelong effects on victims and those who witness abuse and treating these problems is no small task.

In the case of child abuse the victim does not understand what and why this is happening; nor do they have the power or social awareness to stop it once it has begun. This makes treating children very complex when you add that a child may be unable to say how they have been hurt or how.

When victimized at a young age, children and adults seek therapy for a many reasons that are fallout from the abuse and not just the history of abuse itself. Immediately and oftentimes later in life other problems will hinder healing like substance abuse, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression and the inability to have healthy relationships on any level. Counseling seeks to help victims deal with the abuse and with the psychological and social problems that can occur as a result. Undoing lifelong damage is near impossible when tackled alone.

Counselors and therapist are trained to utilize tools and processes whereby with careful observation and gentle interactions they can guide the victim to a point where fear, confusion, pain and betrayal can be dealt with. Additionally, people participating in this healing process realize that any progress made is just a small part of a long and complicated process as the child grows and encounters situations that reawaken fears and open scars that need re-processing for more closure and understanding.

For victims of abuse, counseling is not an option.

REPORT ABUSE AND INSIST ON BEING INFORMED OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO VICTIMS.

Not every person is expected to know what to do when child abuse happens.  So how do you find the right help?

Childhelp

Childhelp can help.

 

From the Childhelp Website:

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

What to expect when calling the Hotline

When calling 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453), a qualified crisis counselor will answer and assist you, if you:

  • Need help and want to talk to a counselor.
  • Are in physical or emotional crisis and need support and encouragement
  • Connect you to the best possible resources in your area.
  • Have questions about the signs of child abuse.
  • Need to find out how to report known or suspected abuse.
  • Have questions about the reporting process and what you might expect through the process.
  • Want to learn about Childhelp programs that will address you or your child’s needs.
  • Want to learn about resources available to parents, grandparents & caregivers.
  • Need emotional support as survivor of abuse.
  • Want a referral to an agency, counseling or other services near where you live.
  • Want literature mailed to you. (Allow two weeks for delivery via the U.S. Postal Service.)
  • Want information on how to make a donation to Childhelp.

Childhelp crisis counselors cannot come to the home where the abuse is happening and take away the child or teen who is in danger of being hurt and put them in a new home.

The Childhelp Hotline crisis counselors can’t make the child abuse report for you, but we are here to help you through it.

 

 

B is for Bruises – A to Z on Child Abuse

Child Abuse PSA in Spain.

Child Abuse PSA in Spain.

A to Z on Child Abuse… B is for Bruises

Victims of abuse are rarely walking around with bruises for you to see.  The internal scars are forever for most.  So what might a victim of abuse show you that should raise questions?

Please read this very informative piece from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

 

Child Abuse – The Hidden Bruises

The statistics on physical child abuse are alarming. It is estimated hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by a parent or close relative. Thousands actually die as a result of the abuse. For those who survive, the emotional trauma remains long after the external bruises have healed. Communities and the courts recognize that these emotional “hidden bruises” can be treated. Early recognition and treatment is important to minimize the long term effect of physical abuse. Whenever a child says he or she has been abused, it must be taken seriously and immediately evaluated.

Children who have been abused may display:

  • a poor self image
  • sexual acting out
  • inability to trust or love others
  • aggressive, disruptive, and sometimes illegal behavior
  • anger and rage
  • self destructive or self abusive behavior, suicidal thoughts
  • passive, withdrawn or clingy behavior
  • fear of entering into new relationships or activities
  • anxiety and fears
  • school problems or failure
  • feelings of sadness or other symptoms of depression
  • flashbacks, nightmares
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • sleep problems

Often the severe emotional damage to abused children does not surface until adolescence or even later, when many abused children become abusing parents. An adult who was abused as a child often has trouble establishing lasting and stable personal relationships. These men and women may have trouble with physical closeness, touching, intimacy, and trust as adults. They are also at higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, medical illness, and problems at school or work.

Early identification and treatment is important to minimize the long-term consequences of abuse. Qualified mental health professionals should conduct a comprehensive evaluation and provide treatment for children who have been abused. Through treatment, the abused child begins to regain a sense of self-confidence and trust. The family can also be helped to learn new ways of support and communicating with one another. Parents may also benefit from support, parent training and anger management.

Physical abuse is not the only kind of child abuse. Many children are also victims of neglect, or sexual abuse, or emotional abuse. In all kinds of child abuse, the child and the family can benefit from evaluation and treatment from a qualified mental health professional.

If you found this information helpful and would like to make good mental health a reality, consider donating to the Campaign for America’s Kids. Your support will help the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry continue to produce and distribute vital mental health information, free of charge.
You may also mail in your contribution. Please make checks payable to the AACAP and send to Campaign for America’s Kids, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, DC 20090.

 

REFERENCE TO LETTER A – ADVOCACY

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Advocacy Day is Fast Approaching—Please Make Sure to Sign Up Today!

Advocacy DayRegistration is open for AACAP’s annual Advocacy Day. Join us May 8th and 9th in Washington, D.C!

 

Salvador

Salvador. You don’t know him. You will probably never meet him. But I feel compelled to make sure you have heard of him. Its been on my heart for a week now and it hurts so bad my eyes tear up to even think of him. It’s such a real pain that I whisper his name when I say it in my head trying to soften the blow I know is coming.

I’m going to free write to get this out just to make sure I get it out and keep it short and concise.

Salvador is a two year old boy with a cast on his freshly broken arm. That is what you would notice first. The cast on his arm. I have a boy who is almost two so I immediately cataloged a list of things I would need to modify as I watched the half dozen toddlers I would be watching that day in the one and two year old children’s nursery for my churches late service. The hand off from the early service provider is usually swift as there are no kids there yet.

But here was Salvador, with his cast, and today was not going to be like any other day.

“This is Salvador,” she said. “This is one of Dotty’s three foster children she got this week.”

One of three foster kids? I distinctly remember Dotty stating a few weeks ago that she would be getting a foster child soon and I was so excited for her. But three foster kids. Three foster kids? A whole family of kids? That cast! I start to slowly shake my head because I don’t want to hear what she is going to say next but she whispers it to me anyway… “You see his cast? His dad did that.”

And now I have to make myself not cry. Not now and not then. Both times I fail. I remember looking down on this boy and his cast playing with a church train set and now I see the laceration on his freshly shaved head. The scratches on the back of his neck. The bruise on the non-broken arm and a rage builds in me that is hard to describe. Even harder to contain but what can I do as the other teacher tries to leave to attend service.

I put on a sweet smile and a calm presence because this baby doesn’t have to deal with my issues today. He doesn’t want to stay with me. He had just gotten use to her but when I go to pick him up he lets me. I say “let me” because chances are better a one year old is going to give you an earful if you aren’t on his list of approved picker uppers. But Salvador comes to me and I hug him tight. I pray over him. I try to push every happiness and strength god would let me out of my body and into is trying my hardest to believe in belief by osmosis. And then we go to the rug to play trains.

I have a 20 month old and him and Salvador are the same size but Salvador is obviously older. He has a seriousness about him that shouldn’t be there and I hate it. My son is a pure terror. Won’t let me out of his sight and will cry to vomiting if left in someone else care. A pure monster and the greatest beast on this planet. He has a vocabulary of dozens of words and is the king of one word sentences. And here is Salvador: A few days removed from an event I refuse to give vision to that leads to being removed from his home and parents, put into foster care, entering a new home, and going to a church to play on the floor with a woman he has never met. He says only two words as far as all of us can tell. Mommy and train.

Mommy and train. That is it. And in the hour and a half he was with me maybe he said those words five times. And it breaks my heart every time he says either because he says them the same. Same tone, same emotion. That there was an equal importance to the two things. And my brain is screaming, over and over, “Where was your Mommy? Why didn’t she protect you?” Its unfair, and I don’t know the circumstances but the momma bear in me wants to rip the head off of a handful of people and every time he says “Mommy” she gets back to second billing on the head removal list.

Four other babies come to the nursery for service but I cling to Salvador like the secret service at an outdoor parade. Luckily I have a great bunch of babies that day and they are cooperating and playing together nicely. That is just one of the three blessings that allowed me smother Salvador (purely to make myself feel better because this two year old was fine without me playing on the floor the entire time). The other two blessings were that I had left my son at home with his grandma and my husband had his MBA group project that morning so he came to church after me and when he stopped by on his way in to say hi I dragged him into the room and introduced him to Salvador.

So my husband didn’t go to service last Sunday. He played on the floor with Salvador and four other amazing little boys. This was a WONDERFUL moment for me because I got to see my husband, the man that is with me for the rest of this life, make this little battered boy laugh. It was like hearing sunshine. I of course never thought to even try to make him laugh. He’s been traumatized. Maybe I was projecting my personal history on him because it never once occurred to me that he would laugh if you tickled him. This serious, too grown for a two year old toddler, has the greatest laugh you ever heard. And my husband did that. They all got tickles and everyone seemed great… but me. I was and still am devastated.

At one point Salvador was retrieving his precious train from the hands of another boy and hit himself in the chest with the train and started to cry. The softest cry I’ve ever heard when compared to the noise that my children make. I swooped him up in bear hug so fast I think the wind from my speed messed up the hair of all the other kids in the room. I hugged him to me, promising that no one would ever hurt him again. An irrational reaction to a horrible situation. He was not hurt in my care but I felt as if I had failed him by allowing him to hit himself in the chest as he tried to navigate a train set and another toddler with one arm. But the “I will never let anybody hurt you ever again” feeling hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t lessened. I can honestly tell you that I had started working out the logistics of how I could escape with him and his 9 month old and 3 year old brother to an undisclosed country where there would be no possibility of them EVER going back to their parents. But I was pretty sure that would get his foster parents and my church in a whole lot of trouble.

I have an abused past and these things shape the adult that you become. I have been lucky enough to fall in love with a man who has a huge heart and like me wants to help the abused and discarded children of this earth. We have always planned to adopt a few kids once we relocated in the next year. And Salvador sits on the floor between us and confirms that it’s not only what we should do but it is what we will do. As many as we can afford to feed and nurture. And that brings a joy to me that I can not describe.

So I just really want you to know Salvador. And know that these kids are around you and they need your help. Salvador’s mature, tough as nails expression would make you believe otherwise but don’t fall for it. He needs you. The Salvadors in your neighborhoods need you.

I’d like to encourage you to think about foster care and think about adoption.

If you have room in your heart, you can find room in life.