(Editor’s note: This story is the first part of a multi-part series “Stolen Innocence,” about children who have been victimized by abuse that begins in Issue #1 and will continue through Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by:JONATHAN BROOKSHIRE/Feature Editor
The home for Children’s Hope is more than a house.
It’s not a hospital. It’s not a foster home. And it’s certainly not a correctional facility. It is a residential home to treat children who have been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused or neglected.
James Aldrich, the CEO of the Children’s Hope organization, created the non-profit facility to increase the children’s coping skills and ability to accept a family and be successful in a new home.
“The goals of the organization is to increase community awareness about foster care,” said Cheyenne Jordan, development officer for Children’s Hope in Levelland. “The vision is to have every child in a permanent home.”
Jordan has been with the organization for four years, having held several positions. Now she is the public relations department and their development officer.
The home, administrated by Sonya Garza, is located in the 1300 block of Washington Street of Levelland. It’s a place to heal from the trouble in the children’s lives. The center specializes in caring for children who have been victims of sexual abuse, as well as those who have been victims of emotional and physical abuse and children who have special needs that are a result of abuse.
“Some of the children that we have treated have had autism, fetal alcoholism, and other defects,” Jordan said.
There are different levels of treatment that a child would be classified in: intense, specialized, moderate, and basic. The organization only works with the intense and specialized children. When the child completes the program and is classified as moderate, he or she is ready to go to a family or back into the foster care system.
When Children’s Hope gets a new child in their program, he or she is enrolled into a specialized school that is a part of the program. The child goes through a process that they call Day Treatment.
Day Treatment is the time that they go to school, play on the playground, and do daily living exercises. The daily living exercises are simple tasks, such as folding clothes, brushing their teeth, and doing laundry.
“Some of the children in the program are very young,” Jordan said. “Some of them don’t know how to do those little things that we all do every day, like folding clothes and doing laundry. “
The organization works with children from ages 5 to 18. When the children go to the specialized school, the teachers, who are cross-trained with therapy and teaching, adapt to the child’s learning level. The school day is also used for the therapy sessions that some of the children attend.
When a child comes into the program, he or she is given his or her own individual treatment plan that is specialized for that child.
One part of the treatment plan is therapy. For children who are categorized as specialized, they go into therapy once a day, whereas intense children go through intense therapy twice a day.
The process for treating children who have been abused isn’t instantaneous, according to Jordan.
“It can take about eight months to a year for a child to complete the program,” Jordan said. “You can’t rush the healing process.”
Another component of the process is mentoring. Anybody 21 years or older who doesn’t have any red flags on their background check can become a mentor. Mentoring can also help get the child’s trust in adults and society back. The mentoring can also help the organization reach its goals of community awareness.
Community awareness for Children’s Hope is a major part of their goals. As of now, they are in great need of mentors.
Next month, on Nov. 17 – Nov. 19, Skyviews of Texas Tech University is serving a community dinner, with $5 of each plate going toward the Children’s Hope fund. Also on Nov. 21, volunteers are having a wrapping party, a get-together to wrap presents for Christmas.
“Twenty kids live in this home [the Washington campus],” Jordan said. “Between the three campuses in Lubbock and Levelland, there are 108 children in our program.”
Those interested in serving as a volunteer can go to volunteerlubbock.org and sign up for a Make A Difference Day.
“When you sign up for a day, you take a quiz that will give you an optimized list of volunteer jobs based on your time and talents,” Jordan said.
Next year, in March, there is an event that Jordan described as a “big special event,” though she declined to announce any of the details until next year.
All donations go to renovations and supplies for the school, as well as much needed essentials, such as clothes.
The most recent project was a summer vacation for 10 of the 20 kids in the Washington home to go to San Antonio to the El Tropicana hotel on the River Walk. Also, on the vacation, the children were fed at the Hard Rock Café and enjoyed a day at Sea World.
“We have come up with the idea for the vacation because it gives the children memories and a childhood,” said Jordan. “It’s healthy for the child to escape the difficult life that they’re used to.”
Another way to help the children escape their lives is by having them volunteer at other non-profit organizations, such as Meals On Wheels, Paul’s Project (previously Tent City), and other volunteer work through Make A Difference Day with the Volunteer Center of Lubbock.
“It’s really good to show them [the kids] that there is more in the world than just what they’re living,” Jordan said. “No other residential treatment center in Texas has a relationship-based model which includes valuing the children being out in the community to volunteer.”
Children’s Hope is looking forward to creating more community awareness about the organization so that every child has a home to live in, and not just a house.