Home is something I took for granted as a kid. Each night, I was safe and in the company of family: my father, mother and sister. Now I’m a father of four and my kids take home for granted now. I can’t say this fact disappoints me, but for some kids—for too many kids—home is a difficult place, even a scary place, if it exists at all.
There were 702,000 cases of child maltreatment reported in 2014. This number includes child abuse and neglect cases. It comes from the September 2016 Child Maltreatment report released through the Child Welfare Information Gateway. To put that number into perspective, it represents 9.5 children out of 1000, ages 17 years and younger. That’s almost one in 100, or 1 percent of kids. According to the same report, the numbers haven’t changed much over the past five years.
While one might find some relief in the idea that cases aren’t on the rise, the numbers still indicate a steady problem that needs addressed on multiple levels. Not the least of concerns should be for the victims—the children themselves.
Isn’t that where the state comes in? Not always. The state can only do so much. They are limited by funding and tied down by bureaucracy. What then? It falls to private citizens with willing hearts and working hands.
Enter one such private establishment, The Children’s Village in Coeur d’Alene. The Children’s Village began in 1983. According to the history on their website, Dr. Anne C. Fox-Clarkson made good on a promise she made to siblings who were victims of abuse. Her larger goal, based on what she’d witnessed, is “to serve children who are abused, neglected, homeless or in severe family crisis.” Now, with two houses, The Children’s Village serves up to 24 kids, ages 18 and younger, at a time. They’ve provided for over 2,000 children during the course of their work in the community.
Emily Aizawa is the fundraising manager for the Children’s Village. Since the village is a local enterprise without ties to a larger organization, and state funding makes up about 5 percent of their overall income, she has a big job. From my conversation with her, I think she has the heart to match it. She describes the village in the following way:
“The scared, scarred and scattered come to the front door of Children’s Village and find safety, security and stability. We meet this mission 365 days a year. From the everyday care of meals, crafts, encouragement and safety to the holiday traditions of decorating the Christmas tree, sweet treats, family meals and board games, we are the proactive parent in the lives of children.”
She is careful to point out that the Village is no sterile, white-walled institution. The Children’s Village is a home, complete with family style dining. They have a crisis nursery for children 4 and younger. Children five years and older get their own rooms. For some of these kids, it is the first time they’ve had a bed, not to mention a room, to call their own.
Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to their family style commitment, the village is one of the few such places where siblings are kept together. In a touching story, one local supporter described to me the importance of this effort. Keith Boe told me that his father was orphaned during World War II. He was separated from his brother and bounced around the country. His father and uncle were able to keep in touch, but they lived out completely separate lives.
Keith, a father of five, first visited the Children’s Village while looking for a local children’s charity to support through the North Idaho Life Charity Masquerade Ball. He was overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing siblings, brother and sister, who had been rescued from an abusive home. The children were safe, together and happy. Keith knew it was the goal of his charity to support the Children’s Village. He told me, “It helps real people, real kids. … Such an amazing and very real need that I wish my own father would have had.”
It seems our world is facing crisis in every corner these days. From politics to poverty, crime to climate, we hear about a lot of problems that pose a threat to us as individuals. While there are practical ways we could approach any one of these problems, perhaps the most practical thing to do is seek to make a positive change right where we are at. The Children’s Village is doing that.
If you are interested in being a part of what goes on at the Children’s Village, there are many options. Check out the “Ways to Give” dropdown list on the Children’s Village website at TheChildrensVillage.org.
If you want to volunteer your time, there is a process in place for the safety of the kids. It includes a background check, training and orientation. That is to say, it isn’t as easy as dropping in and offering to help. There are plenty of less formal options. Look for group maintenance days and other events, or see if there is something on the wish list you feel moved to purchase.