Since 1993, we have provided a safe haven and loving care to more than 11,500 children from throughout the state of Arkansas. These children have all suffered the trauma of abuse and neglect, but with the guidance of our Shelter team and the support of the Northwest Arkansas community, we are showing them the way to a brighter future. Here are just a few of their stories.
“I love it here. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is the best place I’ve ever been.” The sentiment above was recently shared with me by a 14-year-old named Wesley. At first, I was thrilled to hear it. I was so glad that he felt safe and comfortable here at the Shelter. That […]Read more about Wesley
“I love it here. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is the best place I’ve ever been.”
The sentiment above was recently shared with me by a 14-year-old named Wesley. At first, I was thrilled to hear it. I was so glad that he felt safe and comfortable here at the Shelter. That means that we’re doing our job well. That means that we’re fulfilling our mission.
But then, as what he said began to sink in, it actually made me very sad. Shouldn’t this young man want to be in a home? Shouldn’t he want to be part of a family? So, why, out of all the places he has been, does he want to be here?
His understanding of home and family is so much different than mine. A home, to him, means conflict and struggle. It means constantly being hyper aware and ready to fight or flee at any moment. It means feeling alone and frightened, but never being able to show fear or weakness. It means growing up way too fast.
At the Shelter, Wesley is surrounded by people who care about him, 24 hours a day. He has a routine and knows what to expect from day to day. He never has to question whether he will have clean clothing or enough to eat. He knows that his education is important and that his teachers will do everything they can to keep him on track. He knows that we want him to have the best future possible.
I wish every child in Arkansas had a loving, supportive home. I wish we could close the doors of the Shelter forever. Unfortunately, there will always be children like Wesley. To him, the Shelter is more of a family than he has ever known. So, we will keep our doors open, and our arms open even wider, for the children who need us.
Sr. Director of Finance
Interim Executive Director
Recently, we had an intelligent, hard-working young man in our care. His name was Demonte and he was 15 years old. One day, he got upset in class and took off out of the building like he was planning to run away. This is not an uncommon reaction from the children in our care. Many […]Read more about Demonte
This young lady has been with us for more than two months. When she first arrived, she could only count to 8 and didn’t recognize numbers above 5 by sight. She also only knew about 6 letters and no sounds. She attends school on-site here at the Shelter and is in Ms. Anaiya’s elementary class. […]Read more about Lola
This young lady has been with us for more than two months. When she first arrived, she could only count to 8 and didn’t recognize numbers above 5 by sight. She also only knew about 6 letters and no sounds. She attends school on-site here at the Shelter and is in Ms. Anaiya’s elementary class. By the end of the first quarter of the school year, she can now count to 30 and identifies numbers up to 20 when shown out of sequence. She also knows 24 letters and matching sounds! This sweet girl is overcoming memory issues and a language delay. Her hard work, along with the patience and caring of Ms. Anaiya, have allowed her to make huge progress. We are so proud of her!
Let me tell you Abby’s story. It was one of the worst cases of neglect the police officer had ever seen. The children were covered in grime, clearly malnourished and sleeping on filthy pallets on the floor. The house had no running water and roaches infested the kitchen. There were visible scratches, bruises and burns […]Read more about Abby
Let me tell you Abby’s story.
It was one of the worst cases of neglect the police officer had ever seen. The children were covered in grime, clearly malnourished and sleeping on filthy pallets on the floor. The house had no running water and roaches infested the kitchen. There were visible scratches, bruises and burns on the children’s bodies. This wasn’t the first time their caregiver had been arrested.
After the children were removed from the home, they arrived at the doors of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter. They were scared, tired and hungry. We welcomed them with open arms. The Shelter team immediately sprang into action by serving the children a hot meal, giving each child a bath, providing them with clean clothing and beginning treatment for rashes, burns and lice. Abby was the oldest child living in the home — a young girl of less than seven years. Confused and extremely angry, she lashed out at the Shelter team because she had never trusted an adult in her life. She didn’t know how to react when we tried to care for her. She had been deprived of the love and affection of a family.
With patience and guidance from the Shelter team, Abby learned how to better handle her anger and frustration. She learned how to use kind words and how to depend on the adults around her to meet her needs. Most importantly, she learned that, for the first time in her life, she had people who truly cared for her.
Now, Abby has discovered the joys of childhood.
She loves stuffed animals. She loves talking about kittens. She loves drawing pictures for her teacher. On a recent visit to Chick-fil-A, she was so excited about eating in a “real” restaurant and even more excited about joining the other children in the play area. In our care, Abby learned how to laugh and have fun. Her laugh is so infectious, it can turn a bad day into a great one!
Abby is just one of the more than 10,000 children in Arkansas who experienced abuse or neglect last year. For the past 5 years, Washington County has ranked #2 and Benton County #3 for substantiated cases of child abuse. Yes, child abuse is very real and, yes, it is happening in OUR community.
The Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter serves as the first point of refuge for children from throughout Arkansas who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect. Here, they are safe, loved and given the opportunity to just be kids again.
We need your help to combat the effects of abuse and neglect on our kids. Your gift to the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter not only provides a warm bed and three meals per day, but also the opportunity for children like Abby to begin the process of healing. Help our children to know that they are loved with your gift.
by Paulette Nesbitt, Title I Aide, Bentonville Public Schools The effects of childhood trauma are vast and unique to each child. In the case of Austin*, an 11-year-old attending the on-site school at the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, the physical, emotional, and social effects of trauma exposure impacted every aspect of his academic day. Initial […]Read more about Austin
by Paulette Nesbitt, Title I Aide, Bentonville Public Schools
The effects of childhood trauma are vast and unique to each child. In the case of Austin*, an 11-year-old attending the on-site school at the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, the physical, emotional, and social effects of trauma exposure impacted every aspect of his academic day. Initial reading and math assessments placed him two years below his fifth grade level. As our Education staff worked with Austin, evidence of an undiagnosed learning disability began to reveal itself. He shared with staff that he hated to read and that it triggered his fears. A great deal of his written work was illegible, with misspelled words that were constructed by a mixture of upper and lower case letters of various sizes floating across the page. Writing struggles flowed into math accuracy. Reading struggles flowed across the academic curriculum. As our staff uncovered his academic struggles, the polite, quiet and friendly Austin began to retreat under his ever-present red hoodie and sit with his head on his desk. He would fly into angry outbursts and refused to complete his school work.
Our amazing Education team was not deterred. They recognized Austin’s unlimited potential and let him know with each word and action that he was safe and cared for here at the Shelter. Through the tenets of trauma-informed education, Austin began to believe in himself make progress. When working with a child who has experienced trauma, all the lesson plans, diagnostics, intervention tools and targeted materials of the world are useless if the teacher cannot reach the student. Through the collaborative efforts of our education team, working together with our Youth Care Specialists, Austin has emerged from the hoodie and is actively participating in school activities.
We recognize his small and big successes.
We help him recognize the traumas of his childhood may have placed him where he is today but we hold a caring expectation that giving up, quitting, or hiding is not an option.
We listen to his conversations and discover his interests.
We design and construct targeted learning materials pertaining to his interests.
We helped him overcome his reading fears by providing time for him to listen to teachers read stories of interest. Then we gave him space to independently listen to audio books. He now readily comes to the resource room for reading and writing interventions.
These are just a few of the numerous trauma-informed techniques that have placed Austin on a learning path of success. He has improved his reading assessment to an average fourth grader at the beginning of the year and his math assessment to an average mid-year fourth grade student. More important than test scores, however, he ditched the hoodie, participates in classroom coursework and his handwriting is legible with the accommodation of Redi-Space transitional notebook paper. He is improving his decoding, fluency and comprehension skills as he reads aloud daily. Currently, he is reading and learning elements of real friendship through the book Bridge to Terabithia. Now, if he comes across a word he doesn’t know, his hand automatically reaches for the dictionary. He recognizes his own improvement in his written work as he confidently pointed out, “See how all my letters are on the line and all the letters are the same size?” We are so proud of Austin and his achievements. His next book of choice is Moby Dick!
*name and image changed to protect privacy
Jenny fought her whole life to be free of abuse and neglect. She finally escaped that world and arrived at the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter where she immediately began to thrive.Read more about Judea
Judea fought her whole life to be free of abuse and neglect. She finally escaped that world and arrived at the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter where she immediately began to thrive. For the first time in 17 years, she imagined living a normal life just like every other high school student. This included a wish to go to high school prom.
Casey, her case manager during her stay at the Children’s Shelter, shares:
“My heart is filled with so much joy! I got the privilege to go to prom with one of my kiddos from the shelter. No, it wasn’t a typical prom situation, but when a kiddo finally escapes abuse for the first time in 17 years, we do all we can to make it a perfect night for her. She is strong, resilient, courageous, unique, ambitious and unassuming. She inspires me and she is one of the million reasons I will never stop fighting for these kids. Prom night was a sweet reminder that no matter how many hard days we have to face, these special moments make every single hard day completely worth it. If these kiddos can endure years and years of abuse, then we can endure an infinite number of hard days. We have to, because they need us.”
Casey Krisell, former Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter Case Manager
In February 2017, I was taken into the Children’s Shelter at 3:27 a.m.Read more about Sadie
In February 2017, I was taken into the Children’s Shelter at 3:27 a.m.
Due to my past, I was terrified of what I may be walking in to. What if this is the last time I see my brothers? What if I’m completely removed from my “normal” life? I can only imagine what my brothers thought, let alone any other child in the system. This being said, I was shocked walking in to see portraits painted among the walls, a dining room, welcoming staff members … gosh, don’t get me started on how shocked I was to see that we had legit rooms.
They’re decorated! It’s amazing. Here at the Shelter they do their best to make you feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible … Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter has honestly done the best they can do to help me in life. There was never a day that went by that I felt uncared for.
It was very hard adjusting, but I knew I was always okay in their hands.
Samuel came from an environment of neglect. He didn’t know where his next meal would come from, and he spent much of his young life on the streets.Read more about Samuel
Samuel came from an environment of neglect. He didn’t know where his next meal would come from, and he spent much of his young life on the streets.
By the time he arrived at the Children’s Shelter at 16-years old, he’d experienced 26 failed placements, was reading at a second grade level and failure was just a normal part of life.
Upon meeting Samuel, the dedicated team at the Shelter began building trust with him and created an individualized success plan.
He has not only received the care, love and vital services he so desperately needed, but he has thrived. Samuel has made great strides in school. He is working on life skills such as changing the oil in the Shelter vans, assisting with set-up for Shelter events and helping reconcile petty cash in the business office. He’s even opened up a bank account and visited different work environments to discuss career options for his future.
Before the Shelter, Samuel didn’t know home. At the Shelter, he’s found not only a home, but a family.
Teresa, age 17
I went to the on-site school which I liked because it gave me one-on-one time and that’s what I needed to help get my grades up and catch up on all my credits so I can graduate. I would like to thank all of the staff at the Shelter for making me and my son feel safe and taken care of.
Melanie, age 15
The best thing that I love about the Shelter is the acceptance. No matter where any of us came from, we are accepted here.
Henry, age 4
My new bed makes me happy. And I am clean and have a new shirt.
Adam, age 6
I like the Shelter because we get new stuff, like clothes, and we get to go outside and play kickball.
Marly, age 12
I’m so glad that I got to spend my 12th birthday here at the Shelter. It was truly the best!
Brianne, age 12
I’m glad to have a place that has food, water, clothes, beds, and, most of all, electricity.
Chelsea, age 13
The Shelter has truly given me hope to pursue my life to the fullest, put my past behind me, and move on to bigger and better things in life. The staff members, who I think of as family, have brought me to realize that I am valuable, strong and able to conquer anything I set my mind on.
Sammy, age 16
Thanks you NWACS, I now have a bright and successful future. I can’t say thank you enough and I will never forget the amazing people here.
Damien, age 17
Here at this Shelter, staff members treat you with respect and lots of care. They are all helpful and are willing to listen to anything you have to say. I feel safe here.
Pearson siblings, ages 12, 8, 6
Thank you for being here and helping take care of us. We love you all!
Chelle, age 16
The Shelter felt like a family to me – always helping me when I needed it and making me feel at ease. I might be leaving, but a part of me is staying.
Katie, age 14
This place has made me feel the most at home. What makes it so special is the staff. I have never met such caring and dedicated staff.
Rhiannon, age 17
Due to a rough childhood, I had lost all hope in life. The Shelter changed my life for the better. I’ve been given opportunities I never, ever thought I could get in life.”
Tonya, age 17
I learned that love is better than hate.
Lauren, age 16
The world’s not perfect, but people are there to help you. The Shelter was a good environment and people wanted the best for me, and it made me want to love myself more. If I had not gone to the Shelter, I don’t think I’d be in school and I would probably still be in a home when I’m the adult when I shouldn’t have to be.
Rachel, age 17
Thank you for never giving up on me when I was lost.
Mitchell, age 10
I rode on a tire swing for the first time!
Jesse, age 11
I love it here because I feel safe. The staff are here for me when I need them. Plus, I got to go to a Razorback game!
Jordyn, age 7
I like it here.
Kyle, age 9
I felt like I was being taken care of for the first time.
Sharee, age 12
While at the Shelter, I got to do two things for the first time – roller skating and bowling!
Danielle, age 16
The Shelter is a perfect placement for all ages. It’s a safe place where all of my needs were met so I could spend more time on things I needed to work on – like graduating! The Shelter helped me so much!
Tasha, age 17
While at the Shelter, I went from an 8th grade math level to almost a 12th grade level. I’m pretty proud of that.
Kylee, age 6
I tried a cupcake for the first time.
Javier, age 14
I learned to be proud of who I am.
Kiyasha, age 15
The staff treated me as if I were their family. They were always there for me and always reminded me of my worth.
Angela, age 14
The Shelter is a great place with warm hearts, open minds and lots of care.