Of the 386 guests staying at UGM's four shelters on a recent evening, 99 of them were children. Not only do these children need safe shelter, food and stability, they need to experience the love and power of the gospel every bit as much as our adult guests.
Some of these children have experienced abuse and neglect. Others have been separated from their moms for extended periods of time. Involvement with Child Protective Services and being shuffled back and forth between parents, foster care and other family members are not unusual. Many of these children have seen things children shouldn't see and been in the role of caring for their moms, dads or siblings.
The children who come through our doors are in need of a recovery program specifically suited to their needs.
As the coordinator for the school-age program at Anna Ogden Hall (we call it the "Yellow House" because it's located in a yellow house adjacent to the main building), I'm most familiar with that program, but all 3 of our women's shelters have ministries specifically directed toward the children who live there.
Preschool children are cared for in the nursery at Anna Ogden Hall while their mothers are in classes during the day. The school-age children come to Yellow House every day after school for approximately two hours. We help them with homework and do art, crafts and other fun activities.
Almost all of the children at Yellow House come from broken families. The effect of broken families can impact a child’s behavioral, mental and physical wellbeing. While we believe one of the best things we can do for children is to help their moms heal and become the parents their children need, we also recognize that the children need healing of their own.
At Yellow House we strive to equip our children with their own set of tools for personal growth. The children’s staff at Anna Ogden Hall has been working diligently to create a new program with this in mind. The new program includes: a children's Bible study component, a youth version of the Boundaries class our women have, and "Toolbox Time." The children receive actual toolboxes with physical tools - a stress ball or jump rope for anger management, art supplies, a journal, Bible memory verses and a list of feelings, their descriptions, and when they might show up. The physical tools serve a practical purpose, as well as reminding the children of the mental/emotional/spiritual tools at their disposal. Each child will work with their mom and staff members to fill their toolbox with different items tailored to their individual needs.
Our goal in developing this curriculum is to give the children who walk through the door at Yellow House a new way to look at and resolve some of the issues they have been facing. We will be teaching them about conflict resolution, anger management, how to develop empathy and how to recognize and deal with their emotions.
It is our desire that, when the children leave the program, they will have tools at their disposal to help break the cycle of broken families. We want to set them up for success and give them the firm foundation that Jesus provides.
The new program and the children’s toolboxes would be useless without the Master Carpenter – Christ!
- Samantha Keogh
School-age Children's Coordinator, Women's Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall