It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this month we’ve highlighted resources that children and their families can use when they have nowhere else to turn. This morning, we’re taking a closer look at Children Haven.
Last week I spoke with Stephanie Thesis, Executive Director of Children’s Haven in Joplin, and first asked what kind of resources the non-profit provides. “Children’s Haven provides crisis care. So overnight care when a family is experiencing some sort of heightened stress. And, their children, zero all the way to 17 that we serve and provide overnight care for them. The average is ten nights the children stay with us. A lot of them are either one or two nights because maybe there’s a medical emergency in the family. The child might be here for 30 nights or so.”
Children’s Haven is available at no charge to families, and there are no income guidelines to meet. The center is open 24 hours, seven days a week, to accommodate emergencies that can happen at any time. The only criteria to use Children’s Haven is that there is heightened stress in the family. I asked Stephanie if she could provide examples of heightened stress. “It could be a parent who is really feeling overwhelmed and uncertain that they are in the best place to parent their children. So you’re getting a notice that utilities are getting ready to be shut off can be overwhelming. Finding out that you’re about to lose your unemployment can be overwhelming. Being a single parent and taking finals in college can be overwhelming. So there are a million reasons why kids come and stay with us and we really just try to look at the situation and see if we can be of help to the families.”
There is no transfer of custody involved when kids stay overnight at Children’s Haven. Parents can pick their kids up or call to talk to them whenever they want to. Parents are encouraged to bring clothes and comfort items such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Any medicine the child is on, and medical card if they need to be seen by a Doctor. Stephanie says, ultimately, parents in control of making the decisions for their kids. “So parents retain custody while there here. Their kids are their kids, and they are in their custody, and they make decisions about their child’s needs and wants and were just here to help facilitate whatever that looks like. They are in control of making those decisions. We provide reassurance to families that are nervous about accessing care outside of their family or friends but really, we are just here to support families and help kids have some stability and continue in their school. Wherever that might be. We have kids that go to school in Neosho, and McDonald county, in Carthage and Carl Junction, Webb City, all over the area. We just try to get them in their normal routines and activities while assisting their parents in resolving their crisis situation.”
If you or your family is in a crisis, contact Children’s Haven, explain the situation, and the staff will work with you. There are no insurance or financial requirements to use Children’s Havens services. Parents are also encouraged to take a tour of the home so that they can feel more comfortable. “So, we are completely free to families. We don’t charge families anything for our services. We don’t want there to be any barriers to somebody accessing us when it’s the middle of the night, and they feel that they don’t have many choices and they are overwhelmed. And were completely free to them. It’s our responsibility to go out to the community and reach out to tell folks what they do and see who will step in and support those families when they need us most.”
That was Stephanie Thesis with Children’s Haven in Joplin. Organizations like Children’s Haven are non-profits and run on the support of businesses and residents of the community. There are also several ways that you can volunteer on behalf of Children’s Haven.