Frequently Asked Questions about the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter
We receive a lot of questions about the Children’s Shelter, how it works, who comes here, etc..etc. We put together a list of our most frequently asked questions, which you can read below.
- What is Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter?
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is a private, non-profit organization that provides 24-hour emergency residential care to children and teens from throughout Arkansas who are victims of abandonment, abuse or neglect. When a child is removed from his or her home, the Children’s Shelter often is the first place they go before being placed in a traditional foster home.
- What is the mission of Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter?
The mission of Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is to provide a safe haven, high-quality care and hope for the future to children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected.
- Northwest Arkansas is so affluent … is child abuse and neglect really that much of a problem here?
Unfortunately, Washington and Benton counties rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, among the 75 Arkansas counties in the number of validated reports of child abuse/neglect. Of the 8,600 or so validated cases reported statewide each year, more than 1,000 occur in Northwest Arkansas.
- How many kids does Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter help?
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter currently cares for about 500 children who have been neglected/abused per year. In the Children’s Shelter’s 21-year history, more than 7,700 children have been served.
- How and when did Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter get started?
In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the late Judge Terry Crabtree learned that Benton County children were spending nights in DHS offices because there was a shortage of foster homes in Northwest Arkansas. He rallied a group of community leaders to the cause, and Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter was incorporated in July 1991. Funds were raised, and a staff hired, a facility (the former Benton County Sunshine School at Vaughn) was secured and renovated, and on Dec. 6, 1993, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter officially opened, with five girls in residence. And for 21-plus years, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter has been a grassroots organization that accomplishes its mission only with (and primarily through) the help and support of the people of the local community.
- Why and how are children placed at Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter?
The overwhelming majority of Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter residents are placed there by the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Division of Children & Family Services (DCFS), in response to a report or allegation of child abuse or neglect or an intervention by law enforcement. A few children are placed by their foster families for “respite care.” An example of respite care would be a situation in which a foster family has a need to travel out-of-state during a time when the child has a scheduled court appearance, etc. The three major incident/report types that result in a child coming to the Children’s Shelter break down roughly as follows:
- Neglect – 80 percent.
- Physical abuse – 15 percent.
- Sexual abuse – 5 percent.
- How many children can Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter accommodate?
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter currently has a total 48 beds, divided into four residence wings of 12 beds each. Residence wings are defined by age and gender.
- What ages and genders does Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter accommodate?
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter currently serves boys from birth through age 12 (or up to age 14 if they are part of a sibling group and meet our admission criteria) and girls from birth through age 17. We are the only children’s emergency shelter within about 250 miles that accepts children under the age of six.
- Why doesn’t Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter normally take in boys older than 12?
Caring for teen-age boys requires a different level of staffing and training than Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter currently is equipped to take on.
- How long do the kids stay at Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter?
Children may stay at Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter for up to 45 days in a six-month period. Sometimes, DCFS merely needs a few days to evaluate a relative’s home so the child can be placed there. Sometimes, the state needs longer to secure an opening in a traditional foster home. A typical stay lasts about 30 days. Occasionally, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter agrees to exceptions to allow children to stay longer than 45 days (when staff believe it is better to leave the child’s progress uninterrupted), but in such cases, the Children’s Shelter bears the expense for every day beyond the 45th day.
- Does Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter only serve kids from Northwest Arkansas?
In spite of its geographically specific name, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter serves children from throughout the state of Arkansas. The majority of its residents come from Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties, but many come from the River Valley area, as well. In fact, in its 21-year history, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter has either cared for children or received a request for placement from 69 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.
- What does Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter provide for children who have been abused/neglected?
It is no exaggeration at all to say that the overwhelming majority of the children placed in Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter’s care arrive with just the clothes on their backs. The most they bring with them is a garbage bag containing a few hastily gathered essentials. They also bring with them a variety of emotional and physical impacts from the abuse/neglect they have experienced. Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is designed to meet the needs of these children by providing them with a safe and loving environment to reduce their trauma through support and nurturing. This process is facilitated by the presence of an On-Site School that has state-certified teachers and low student-teacher ratios (12-to-1) and On-Site Counseling (through Ozark Guidance Center). The presence of these services allows children to remain in a familiar setting, among familiar faces, with fewer disruptions to their routine and recovery. Among the things provided to the children in our care are:
- The basics of:
- Shelter in a homelike facility.
- Adult supervision & guidance – 24 hours a day, seven day a week.
- Three balanced meals and two healthy snacks per day.
- Clothing (up to six weeks’ worth, all of which is theirs to keep).
- Personal-care items (up to six weeks’ worth).
- Attention to hygiene and/or health issues (including needed trips to the doctor, dentist, etc.). While at the Children’s Shelter, children’s developmental, emotional, medical/dental and educational needs are evaluated and addressed through comprehensive bio-psycho-social assessment and the development of an individual case plan by a trained and certified Case Manager
- Enrichment activities, such as:
- Educational services (on-site & off-site).
- Behavior Management congruent with trauma-informed care, provided by staff who are specially trained in childhood trauma and recovery and Conscious Discipline.
- On-site counseling including play therapy, art therapy, and individual, sibling and family counseling, all with a trauma centered approach
- Fun and enriching outings and activities ranging from bowling to ballet.
- The basics of:
- Do all the kids at Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter attend its On-Site School?
The decision for a child to attend our On-site school is made on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Children and Family Services. The NWACS provides traumatized children a safe, nurturing environment to attend school with their on-site education program. The education program spares children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected the additional stress of starting a new school, as well as providing quality, individualized educational services. Students benefit from having small classroom sizes taught by state certified teachers who are trained in meeting the specialized classroom needs of children who have experienced trauma. All teachers and staff are trained to meet the unique emotional and social needs of a child in crisis. Training includes Conscious Discipline with compassion and Trust Based Relational Intervention with trauma-informed classroom procedures.
- Is Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter’s On-Site School a “real” school?
- Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter’s On-Site School operates under the “umbrella” of the Bentonville Public Schools, and its teachers are required to meet all the same certification requirements as those in the Bentonville school district. The On-Site School has three classrooms (Kindergarten-2nd Grade; 3rd-6th Grades; and 7th-12th Grades) that feature small student-teacher ratios (with a maximum of 12 students per class) and extra individual attention from teachers’ aides and volunteer tutors when needed. Additionally, the on-site school has a fourth, specialized classroom staffed by a Bentonville Public School special education teacher who is able to serve the needs of children who have an IEP or who need additional supports in the school setting. In a traditional classroom, students average 1.6 months of academic progress for every month of classroom instruction. The On-Site School’s students average 5.25 months of academic progress for every 30 days in the classroom.
- Does Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter get most of its funding from the government?
Even though the overwhelming majority of the children in Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter’s care are placed there by the state of Arkansas, the Children’s Shelter gets a limited amount of reimbursement for the care provided to each child. In fact, this state reimbursement amounts to only about 25 percent of the Children’s Shelter’s $3.7 million annual operating budget. The remaining 75 percent is supplied by a caring and generous community.
- Is Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter accredited?
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
- How can people help Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter care for children who have been neglected/abused?
Individuals and/or organizations who want to help Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter care for abused/neglected kids can join the team in any or all of the three following areas of support:
- Money – sponsor, donate, grant – corporately and/or personally. The Children’s Shelter has three major fund-raisers per year, but they collectively generate less than $1 million of its $3.4 million budget. About $1.5 million is derived from individual and corporate donations.
- Goods – any items we need to care for the children … from winter coats to baby wipes.
- Time – volunteer individually or as a group, on-campus or off-campus. More than 200 active volunteers and more than 1,000 group volunteers contribute about 8,000 man-hours per year, reducing our “bottom line” by about $200,000 annually.