When a mom arrives at UGM with children in tow, we know her needs are going to be complex. She needs to know the little ones will be safe, she needs nutritious meals they’ll actually eat, and she probably needs someone to hold a child, offer a rest and provide supplies. Very likely, in addition to these needs and her own need for care, she’ll also require parenting support and education.
At UGM, every women’s facility has a comprehensive children’s program designed to meet these needs and more. At Anna Ogden Hall, this program is located in the Yellow House.
Named for its sunny hue, the Yellow House sits just east of the main facility. It is a fully-equipped childcare facility, staffed with a crew of employees and volunteers who God has called to the ministry.
We connected with Volunteer Bonnie Dixon and Children’s Program Coordinator Lorinda Croswhite to get the inside scoop on how the team has created the safe, healing environment families love.
“It’s a gentle approach,” Bonnie told us. “With these kids, everything needs to be a gentle touch. Let them be the initiators of any physical interaction. We never want them to feel any obligation.”
“It’s a gentle
Bonnie’s philosophy fits perfectly with Lorinda’s goals for the program. “We’re helping children regulate their emotions by teaching them to name how they’re feeling. Then we offer them healthy ways to express their emotions. We use tools such as body socks and squishy balls, and we teach Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).”
TBRI is a therapeutic model that offers effective techniques for supporting at-risk children. Lorinda says one of the basic premises of TBRI is “correction through connection and empowerment.” She says, “We do this by teaching ‘re-dos’ when a behavior needs to be corrected. We connect through play and by giving voice to children, teaching them to use their voice instead of screaming.” She says the reason giving children a voice is so important is that, oftentimes, their lives have been chaotic, and the trauma they’ve experienced is already forming unhealthy neural pathways. Instead of asking for whatever their need is, they’ll either make a demand or go “internal”, trusting no one with their inner selves. A lack of trust can result in a lifetime of unhealthy choices, so Lorinda and the team focus on training the little ones to trust them.
“It’s wonderful,” Bonnie says. “It’s not a glamorous job, but if you can make just one child’s life better, there is no measuring that significance.”
“It’s not a glamorous job, but if you can make just one child’s life better, there is no measuring that significance.”
In addition to helping children learn to speak for themselves, trust those who are trustworthy and get their needs met, the team at the Yellow House works with the moms, providing tools for better parenting.
“When I started at UGM,” Lorinda told us, “my goals were supporting children while their mothers worked on their recovery. But in the past nine months, as I’ve been working at Anna Ogden Hall, new responsibilities and opportunities have come up. Today, I continually work with volunteers and the program team to ensure the best parent-child interactions. I support mothers in their parenting goals by teaching parenting classes, and teaching mothers and children how to play with others by modeling.”
Of course, it’s not all work and retraining; the Yellow House is also a place where genuine friendships are built. “It’s real here,” Bonnie says. “We’re doing life like a family; we’re not perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I use that now to reassure these women that being a Christian is not about doing everything right. We need to be willing to share their struggles. I think that’s a lot more effective in drawing people toward Jesus than trying to be perfect. We say, ‘Don’t give up on yourself because God didn’t.’”
“We’re doing life like a family; we’re not perfect...We say, ‘Don’t
give up on yourself because God didn’t’”
For moms, whole person recovery includes more than just their own healing; it involves relational work with their children and accepting assistance from many helping hands. It is a safe, healing community that makes all the difference.
As a volunteer, Bonnie says she’s impressed by what is offered at UGM. “I see a nice, gentle approach here with these women, offering them safety and offering them help, and yet there is also structure and accountability. It’s nice to be able to support that.”
“I see a nice, gentle approach here with these women, offering
them safety and offering them help.”
The team at the Yellow House ensures that every mom and every child at Anna Ogden Hall has the time and attention it takes to heal, rebuild and make plans for a better future. “It brings me joy,” Lorinda told us. “I love seeing the transformation in new mothers and children.”
Be part of the safe, healing community at UGM. Offer an at-risk child a life-changing week at UGM Camp.