Our Greatest Treasure

Contributed by Jeff Hewitt

Children, all children, are our future. The investment we make in them will be revealed in the way society values them in the future. I pray that revelation shows we regarded them as the greatest treasure of all. Unfortunately, there are times when bad circumstances place these treasures in desperate situations. One of those circumstances occurred last winter when three young brothers between the ages of 4-7, were abandoned in Anchorage. Fortunately, they were taken in by a loving foster family in Anchorage, Alaska.

Chaplain Ruthann Crosby is the founder of Chessed Alaska, a nonprofit educational organization in Wasilla, Alaska. When Chaplain Crosby related this story to her students, they all agreed that something needed to be done for children found in situations like this. One student donated backpacks and then each student took a bag and filled it with clothing, hygiene essentials, and a warm coat. The packs were tagged for different sized kids and a few comfort toys were added.

The backpacks were taken to The Children’s Place in Wasilla, Alaska. The Children’s Place is a Child Advocacy Center and their mission is “To offer hope and healing to children and families impacted by child abuse and neglect through a coordinated community response.” The Children’s Place fulfills this mission by working with children, using a team approach that includes family advocates, medical providers, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, and the legal system. When children experience severe abuse, The Children’s Place provides a safe place for the child to talk about their experience once, as it is being recorded for evidence. By doing so, the child can begin healing because they don’t have to re-experience that traumatic event multiple times, to multiple agencies. Victims and their caregivers who come to The Children’s Place are welcomed by highly trained and experienced professionals in a child-friendly atmosphere. Children receive medical evaluations, forensic interviews, advocacy, and referrals to mental health services. They receive all this with a coordinated team providing support through the emotional, physical and legal processes ahead of them.

Very often, when Law Enforcement or Child Protective Services brings a child to The Children’s Place, the child has been removed from an unsafe home/guardian. When asked, Carol Clausen, Program Manager at The Children’s Place, confided, “There are times when children come in and have nothing but the clothes or pajamas on their back. A backpack with clothing, hygiene essentials and a stuffed animal or blanket can bring comfort to a child when their whole world has been turned upside down. We are very grateful to the Mat-Su community and people who take time to bring supplies for the children who are seen here. It means so much, and every little bit helps.”

Many of these victims find themselves in the state foster care system and we at Chessed Alaska would like to raise awareness and publicly show our deep and sincere appreciation to foster parents who open their hearts and homes to children in need of stability, love and support. If you find yourself wondering what you can do to help children in crisis situations, please contact Alaska Center for Resource Families at 1-800-478-7307 or 866-478-7307 or visit their website at https://www.acrf.org/. The foster care system needs safe homes to place children who are being abused or neglected.

We all share a responsibility to invest in our future generations. It is the community’s job to protect them. Children can’t protect themselves! We can stand alongside families to provide support when a crisis happens, while other organizations, like Reach 907, stand beside families to help restore those children who have experienced traumatic situations.

Please help to protect children experiencing abuse. Child abuse can be reported by calling the Office of Children’s Services at 1-800-478-4444 or by email: reportchildabuse@alaska.gov.