By Children's Program Director Josh Chittum
In March, I sat down for a routine check-in with the Children Program volunteers before program began. I asked the volunteers to share things that have either gone well or made an impact on them in the previous month. When it became my turn to share I struggled to think of a worthy anecdote. After a few moments of silence an image of a specific child flashed in my mind. It was a child that left Community LINC under stressful circumstances several weeks ago.
His name was Eliot. His gregarious personality easily filled an entire room and his thirst for program time was infectious. He was the kind of child that wanted to be on the move all the time. The most fun I saw him have was when some friends of mine came to do a musical performance for the kids. He danced and laughed and jumped with excitement the entire evening, rarely taking pause to catch his breath. Unfortunately, not every aspect of his life contained such unadulterated revelry. In fact, during the latter part of his family’s time at Community LINC, things seemed to grow increasingly stressful by the week.
I never once questioned his parents love and commitment to Eliot. I did fear that the battles they were facing, however, put Eliot in an unsafe situation, particularly because he had special needs. After staffing the situation with my supportive colleagues and supervisor, I made a call to Social Services. An investigator arrived the same day and by that evening Eliot was in protective custody with a family member. The parents understood, but were shattered.
The emotional rawness of the situation has subsided some. While it’s still sad, I think of the good and the possible good as a result of Eliot being taken from his parents. It’s good and comforting to know that Eliot secured a safe place to live for the time being and he will have the protection of Children’s Division in the months that follow. The possible good is Mom and Dad may find themselves in a place to better address their difficulties.
I often yearn to write about grand successes of our residents. I realized last month as I spoke with volunteers, however, that this situation with Eliot was not only a story of brokenness. Were it not for Community LINC and the work of our staff there is only speculation as to what may have happened. We were here to advocate for Eliot and lying amidst the debris of a family going through a tumultuous time, I find a type of success as well. Not just for Eliot, but for his parents too.
This advocacy comprises the foundation of our Children’s Program. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our children, not just physically, but emotionally is central to our work. Sometimes it requires us to give a voice to children placed in harm’s way.