When you look into the face of a child living in our emergency shelter or waiting for a foster family, it's impossible to know where they've been and what they have experienced. When a child first arrives, they are only able to think about making it through that one moment, that first meal, that first bedtime, that first day.
Madeline came to The Children's Shelter after living in a family where abuse and neglect were a part of her daily life. She didn't know that life could be any other way. When she arrived at our doors, she was scared, feeling alone, and afraid to trust anyone. We provided for her daily needs: a comfortable bed to sleep on and a safe cottage to live in; healthy meals, snacks, playtime and new friends; onsite medical, dental and psychological check-ups; kind, loving adults who could be trusted while she waited for the perfect foster or kinship home; and new shoes, clothing and personal items... the first things to call her own.
But all that Madeline could focus on in those first hours was surviving.
That’s a far cry from meeting our mission of restoring innocence.
The question always is, how do you restore a child’s innocence? How do you know when you are successful?
At The Children's Shelter, we know that restoring innocence is achieved by creating an environment for children allows them to experience “normal” childhood things. We cradle the opportunity for each child, like Madeline, to begin healing her lost childhood innocence. We start by giving her a feeling of safety, security and stability. Once a child's basic needs are met, they begin self-discovery and dreaming. With time and consistency, self-discovery leads to feelings of self-worth and improved self-esteem.
Little things matter and are really significant in the big picture. One of the things that Madeline learned about herself may seem simple, but after years of eating only the food that was available to her, it was an exciting day for Madeline when she squealed out loud, "I love Spaghetti!"