As our children and grandchildren grow, we pray daily for their safety. We childproof our homes removing harmful objects. We pad sharp corners. We buy soft, comfortable furniture for them to steady themselves as they toddle around. We watch attentively as they learn to crawl and walk. We walk behind them to pick them up when they fall. Band-Aids are readily available for all their “booboos.” When they have a cold or tummy ache, we are there to assure them everything will be okay. We do everything in our power to let them know they are loved.
Unfortunately, not all children grow up in a loving environment. There is an increasing number of children who face the harsh realities of poverty, abuse and discouragement. Factors such as these impact the child’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. A child who is ignored stops talking. A child robbed of attention won’t hug or allow himself/herself to be hugged. A child who never plays with toys does not learn as quickly. A child betrayed by someone close finds it difficult to trust. A child denied biblical instruction fails to grow with God.
Children all around us are in crisis and struggling to get past the trauma and neglect they have experienced. The facts speak for themselves:
One in five children goes hungry in North Carolina. For children younger than age five the number jumps to 24% which is closer to 1 in 4. Imagine being a parent and having to choose between buying food or paying for heat. Seventy-five percent of needy households being served by food banks find themselves making that very choice – choosing between buying food or providing a warm place for their children. And 81% of North Carolina households receiving food assistance don’t know from where their next meal is coming. (Source: North Carolina Association of Feeding America Foodbanks at www.ncfoodbanks.org)
Child abuse and neglect reports total into the millions each year. Every year, there are more than three million reports of child abuse in the United States. Each report usually involves multiple children. In North Carolina, 128,005 children were referred to local departments of social services agencies for possible abuse and neglect in 2014.
Hunger, neglect, abuse and crisis are as close as next door. It is not unusual for children who come to Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) to hoard their food when they first come into care. It is not unusual for a child to be afraid. I remember last year when we were without power for several days, one of the most difficult aspects for the children was the fear of darkness at nightfall.
All children deserve to feel safe and secure. They deserve the opportunity to become all God would intend. Often when I ask a child what they like most about BCH, they respond by saying, “I feel safe here” or “I like the food and my houseparents really care about me.”
That is what BCH is all about – providing a safe place where those we serve can experience healing. BCH is a place where encouragement from people who really care can be experienced and where tummies and hearts are fed with love every day.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a part of this month of special awareness regarding the struggles children are facing in our nation and in our state, I want to issue a challenge. When you see a child or family hungry, will you help feed them? Will you help BCH feed the children and families in our care through the annual Food Roundup taking place in April?
Will you take the challenge to make a difference in the life of a child? When a child speaks, will you take the time to listen? When a child hurts, will you take the time to help that child heal? When a child dreams, will you help the child to believe? When a child laughs, will you smile with them for the sheer joy that this child is able to experience a feeling of happiness and hope? Will you ask God to open your eyes to the needs of children hurting around you? And if you haven’t already, will you join the many who through their financial support of BCH are making a difference in the lives of children?
Thanks you for the prayerful support that helps pad the corners of a hard world. Thank you for giving children food to eat, a safe place to heal, and for helping us pick up “our” children when they fall. Most of all, thank you for helping us share God’s love with everyone who walks through our doors.
Email me or call me to let me know how you’re living out this challenge. I would love to hear your stories of how you touched the life of a child during the month of April – Child Abuse Prevention Month.