Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
The family was drinking, cursing and shouting out loud.
Dirty clothes and socks were scattered about,
That hadn’t been washed and therefore worn out.
The children were hungry and shivering in bed
While visions of fear raced in their heads.
And momma stoned on meth and Dad higher than a kite,
Had just begun a long nights fight.
And then, with a crash, I heard at the door
Someone came stumbling across the floor.
As I drew the covers over my head
The sounds let me know another night of dread.
Not the usual beloved children’s story, but for some children this is their life. Hunger, neglect, fear and abuse should never be concerns for any child, but some face these conditions everyday. We all care about the issue of child neglect and abuse. But, we hear a lot more about the problem than about the solutions.
The Beginning of a solution-2006
Some community citizens met and discussed the concerns of safe placement for children who have been displaced from their home through no fault of their own. A board of volunteer directors was formed, by-laws were written and incorporated and non-profit status was received in 2006. The board of directors meets monthly to discuss the finances and other concerns for The Children’s Shelter.
The Children’s Shelter (TCS) is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides emergency and temporary care up to 45 days (or 90 days with permission from “State License Officials”) for children from 5 to 12 years who are victims of family violence, neglect, abandonment and physical or sexual abuse. It is designed to meet the needs of these children by providing them with an immediate safe and caring environment until suitable relative or foster care becomes available. The shelter will recognize and meet the needs of these children with sensitivity and unconditional respect.
The Public Awareness and Fundraising-2007
Committees were formed and volunteers took an active part to raise money starting in the summer of 2006. Community schools, clubs, churches, businesses and individuals helped raise money and awareness for TCS.
The Start of a Foundation
A pre-owned building was bought by the board members. The building, located at 107 Benson Drive, is 5500 sq. feet and was previously used as a residential care facility for handicapped adults. Community volunteers made repairs and painted inside and outside the entire building. Safety improvements were made, i.e. a security fence was built and placed around the backyard, a security system installed and a bathroom was remodeled to accommodate small children.
TCS consists of 10 bedrooms, 12 twin beds, 4 toddler beds, 1 baby bed and 3 cribs. The building also has a large family room, a girl’s social room, a boy’s social room, kitchen and dining room, 4 full baths, 2 half baths, a reception room, laundry room, office and a large room that serves as a clothing closet. Each room was adopted by church groups, school groups, businesses and individuals to provide furniture, bedding, pictures, etc. All the rooms have colorful themes and offer any age child, boy or girl, a comforting and safe place to stay.
Another requirement was to have transportation in the shelter name and remain on the property when not in use. A 2002 seven7-passenger van was donated to the shelter and has been licensed and insured.
The Year 2009
Arkansas State License Board requires a full-time administrator with a Bachelor Degree in Social Services with two years of working experience. TCS board hired a person who prepared polices/procedures, budgets, admission forms, employee and volunteer application and requirements. She obtained the health, fire and safety, security, electrical and plumbing certified permits for the building.
TCS opened the doors to the first displaced child June 1, 2009. Some unwise decisions made by board members, administrator and staff members which led to two allegations against the administrator. The state refused to send children to TCS for 101 days until investigations were resolved. The allegations were proved “untrue” by county and state law enforcements, but at great cost. The loss of reputation and eventual resignation of the administrator; the loss of public confidence and support in TCS; the loss of some employees who had to have stable jobs and the loss of $17,731.56 in board payments have been challenges, but we have learned from our mistakes and made positive changes to guard against other allegations of any kind.
The Year 2010
TCS has strengthened polices and procedures and placed a video security system in the building and on the grounds. This was made possible by a grant from the Arkansas Rural Development Commission for Improvements Committee. The grant also provided funding for storm windows and doors and a new commercial dishwasher.
A 24-hour paid staff consisting of seven days a week which includes 8 full-time people working eight hour shifts during the week and 4 part-time people working 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday to provide care and supervision for the children.
Volunteers have been trained to help our staff with children. A volunteer can help children with homework, arts & crafts, playtime, preparing or serving food or snacks. Most of our children crave individual attention and volunteers can help fill that need.
College students majoring in Social Services need community hours and we can accommodate them with meals while they assist the children or staff.
All staff, volunteers and interns are required to pass a drug test, child maltreatment central registry checks and Arkansas State Police Record/FBI Criminal Record checks. All staff and interns will receive in-house training for CPR, first-aid, and aggressive behavior training.
The board members know the cleanness of the facility, the constant supervision and care the staff give the children and how clean, healthy and happy the children appear. The best compliment TCS receives from Department of Children and Family Service and mental caseworkers and attorneys is, “I don’t have to worry about my children if they are here.”
How do we fund The Children’s Shelter? TCS receives a board payment from the state which averages $25.00 per child per day. That board payment is to provide safety, shelter, food, clothes, educate, transport, provide over-the-counter medications, personal hygiene products, entertain, reward a child and pay employee salaries.
Most non-profits are struggling and some are failing. TCS cannot fail! Our displaced children have been neglected, abused and sometimes abandoned by their caregivers and we cannot fail them! They are our future and they have legal rights for food, shelter, medical and educational needs. TCS will probably always be in need of donations, and never make a profit, but with your help, think of the safety and care we can give these children.
Our facility depends on corporate and/or individual donations which are 100% tax-deductible and fundraisers. TCS also accepts monetary gifts for honor or memorial of a loved one. As the current year ends you may be searching for charities for donations, please consider The Children’s Shelter as your recipient. Your gift will benefit displaced children from any county in Arkansas.
The Children’s Shelter, incorporated April 17, 2006, is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization. Donations can be sent directly to: The Children’s Shelter Fund Account, First National Bank, P.O. Box 509, Walnut Ridge, AR 72476 or The Children’s Shelter, 107 Benson Drive, Walnut Ridge, AR 72476.
Thank you for your consideration and God Bless You,