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!
*name and image changed to protect privacy