Comfort A Child: How It Began
December 7, 2012
Well, it’s been awhile, but there were turkeys to bake and children to love and trees to trim. But I’m back now, and I’d like to tell you a story about how the “comfort a child” program came into play.
Five years ago, I met a young lady who told me the most grim and tragic story that was her life. She had been red flagged by area authorities; adults on her watch were fearful for her safety in her home. Both parents were addicted to drugs, and supervision was not a priority. This dear little girl was at a friend’s house, playing a game, when a large, fully armed policeman came to pick her up. This child had absolutely no idea why she was in trouble; she was given five minutes to gather what was dear to her in her home, and was taken to Children’s Services. After a mandatory heart breakingly scary physical exam, this little girl was placed into a new home within twenty-four hours. To most of us, home has a warm feeling- a warm taste to it. You remember brightly lit rooms full of laughter, or quiet safe moments of peace. The word home has so many facets to our hearts- it is where we most belong.
To the thousands of children removed from their homes each year, that perception of safety, no matter how ill perceived, is disjointed and destroyed forever. In that moment of displacement, where as a small being with no sense of power or entitlement you are simply placed in a new surrounding with strange and foreign people, home becomes a new word entirely.
Those involved in this painful process are just that- in pain. It is most difficult to be on the sidelines of that youth who must break into a new pattern of life, a new set of rules, a new form of family, however long that transition may last. God bless the caseworkers, the people at Children’s Services, the police and other officials present at this most tender and defining moment in a child’s life. In the end, it is a sense of duty and morality to provide a better life for our children in danger. But in doing so, a life made better is a life made so different- and it is sometimes impossible for that child to make sense of where and how life became so very strange.
Our board was told over and over that one of the saddest metaphors in this process was that, when told the child had five minutes to gather the last vestiges of life as it was known, they were given a plastic garbage bag in which to gather their belongings. It seemed to be a very loud statement. Our board put aside a large sum of money to provide these children with a strong and steady duffle bag in making this transition, and for the past five years, children going into care were given a respectable mode of transport for the treasures they cared to keep. One caseworker told me recently that when given our duffel bag to a young man being taken from his home, the young man looked up to her and said, “it’s just like Christmas!” The caseworker was in tears.
We take much in our lives for granted. We stumble through our days, hoping for a good night’s sleep and the ability to stumble through another day. We should all sit up and take notice that if that is our truth, we have a sense of where we belong; we have loved ones who have made a permanent mark on who we are, and will continue to do so. There is much more to our sense of home than in its residing- the actual pulse of home that beats through us need be honored, and appreciated. And for those wee ones who need a safer and gentler new home to live in, we need to do what we can to comfort them along the way.
Many thanks to Girl Scout Troop #30658 from Centerville for their mission in creating new duffle bags full of hope and love for our children taken into care.