When Child Abuse was presented to the youth at Tecumseh, they immediately identified with it and all the problems it makes in a family. And even though the director of DEFY was not really considering doing anything about the problem, she was so loudly awakened to the youth’s demands. When she came back to the office, she said, “Guess what we are going to do! Our teens have spoken about an issue they are very concerned about and their passion is so genuine that we need to help them> The issue is child abuse and the kids want to not only put up a visible reminder to parents about how deeply children are affected, they want to create a project that will show the public what it is, how important it is, and how it can destroy a family.”

And so, last month the high school teens, with help of the middle school youth, created a tree and named it the Wishing Willow—symbolizing hope for our youth that we adults recognize the emotional harm it does and work throughout the community to change the atmosphere. And they created a giant white bear, Patches—symbolizing the purity that represents children of our community, with a band aid over his heart to show the heart ache that occurs when a parent yells at his children and calls them stupid or some other cutting word; or hits them unnecessarily and punishes them with force; or especially those who sexually abuse their children and leads them belief they are the ones who deserve any of this. And then the youth wrote and illustrated a book about Patches the Bear. And finally, the teens created cards to show parents a better way and some positive parenting tips—special bears to give the kids hope for their future. And with this they have been going to schools, festivals, churches, and everywhere they can to get the word out—this is a problem and has been for a long time, but we, as youth in Bethel Township, want to let the community know that this is not acceptable and we need to change things.” And with that they built and wrote and created a great project that will be available throughout the year.

Family and Youth Initiatives is very proud to be a part of this action by the kids. As we became a nation of mobility, parents moved away from families and had to take on the added stress and responsibility of raising their children without that safety net love and affirmation from that family or even close neighbors, we have found that child abuse levels go up in communities. We have all read about the worst-case scenarios of child sexual abuse and it seems to be growing every day. In Clark County we have over 3000 children in foster care—many times as victims of child abuse. Most times abuse goes unreported as the children are scared, the parents feel guilty about yelling or hitting their child in a fit of anger, and the family is traumatized and just does not know how to react. So many times, parents do not know how to react to a child who is challenging and many times we go back to our childhood when hitting and hard spanking was normal, strong yelling was heard around the neighborhood, and even though sexual abuse was illegal then as well as now, it was still the nasty little secret that no one talked about.

Unfortunately, the youth at Tecumseh, over the past couple of weeks, have seen many people who still want to hide the fact there is child abuse out there and kids are getting hurt. If it is physical, the kids hide the bruises and scars and even the tears. If emotional, there are no scars except for within the heart, and those last forever. And statistics show that if child abuse if part of a child’s life, the chances that child will be an abuser as well are heightened. If you are a parent, ask your child—he or she will know at least two other youth who are being abused in some way. And please know that the abuse is happening, whether you are shutting your eyes to it or not.

If you are a parent who tries to cope with stress and sometimes you simply cannot bear it, FYI has some great tips for you. Please remember, we all have stress and we all know what it is like when our children do the wrong things at just the wrong times. And sometimes we just cannot seem to help ourselves and we take our frustration out on them, then try to tell ourselves that they deserved it—all the while feeling guilty that we hurt them. If you have not ever done this, you are in the very small minority. Again, please call us at FYI, ask to talk to Julie or Julie and they can get you the tips for coping.

Finally, the youth had one more idea. They decided that several times this summer they would like to hold a bike making party and put together bikes for kids who are going into foster homes. It seems to be the rule that when a child is place in a foster home, they get 2 garbage bags to put their things in to take with them. One of the DEFY youth made the comment, “Kids are not garbage” and so the youth have committed to making duffle bags, which they will decorate, and assembling bikes for the kids who go to their foster home. The cost per child is about $100 and the youth are raising money to get some to both stuff and assemble. But more important they need people to help assemble May 25 and June 1 at the FYI office. Please come and help us help foster kids to know they are wanted and loved. And even more so, come to thank your Bethel Township youth for their diligence in pursuing this very important issue.