Hopeless children are featured in national news stories every day, with younger children becoming more despairing and violent. But there are many more hopeless children quietly being tossed about foster systems all across the country who have nothing but struggles ahead to becoming confident and productive. And then there are the kids whom abuse and neglect have scarred to the point that they’ve been ejected from foster homes so many times that they will no longer take them. Where is their hope? In Detroit, it’s at the Christ Child House, which has been sheltering, healing and nurturing local children for 67 years—with the significant support of the Detroit Chapter.
When I visited the Christ Child House on a cold snowy morning in March, I had the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of the House’s staff leadership and to tour the house, including the boys’ living quarters and shared spaces. I could see without speaking to them except to say hello that many bear heavy pain, anger and frustration-due to the neglect and abuse they’ve endured. The vast majority are on medication for mental health issues; all are receiving counseling and medical support by the highly trained staff. The staff has a heavy challenge in their daily interactions with these 18 boys, some of whom are teens, and the dignity, professionalism and concern with which they interact with them was calming and constant.
The volunteering efforts by Detroit Christ Child members reflect dignity, compassion and care as well. The House Committee focuses on the support and maintenance of the physical plant, including the furniture (with measuring for new dressers taking place during the tour). It touched me that each boy coming to the house received a handmade quilt which is theirs to keep—and I am sure it is a warm and welcome bit of dignity for them. Christ Child “Heartwarmers” make monthly visits to the House and play games, cook, celebrate the end of school, volunteer at a nursing center across the street or engage in other activities. The Chapter’s Child Enrichment Program is all about bringing new experiences and opportunities to the boys through extra-curricular activities, from gymnastics to golf to whirlyball to inner-tubing. The House’s recreational director Myron Dawson told me a story about how one of the music enrichment programs actually caused one boy to seriously take up guitar!
But what was most exciting to me is the House’s end game. The individual treatment programs are designed with each child in mind and are designed to prepare each child to function effectively in a family home in the community. Through the Christ Child House Adoption program, the House not only prepares but places children in adoptive homes but prepares the family to deal with the child’s issues, makes monthly visits, and provide 24-7 access by the boy and family to Christ Child staff during the first year. And, if a previously adopted child begins to act out in his adoptive homes, the House will take the boy back in for 90 days to work through the challenges with the boy and family and seek to reunite them for the long term.
It is the combination of 47 full and part time staff from a wide variety of disciplines, the Detroit Chapter and its many member volunteers, community supporters and the Michigan Department of Human Services that literally helps one child at a time away from hopelessness and towards hope. High risk, high investment and high reward!
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 28:15). Hats off to the Detroit Chapter for being an instrument of hope and for exemplifying that “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child.” (Mary Virginia Merrick).
If you want to know more about Christ Child House of Detroit, listen to these radio interviews (opens in new window) of Executive Director John Yablonky.