Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series of stories that will focus on The Village Network and its programs offered in Knox County, including the Children’s Resource Center and the Knox Foster Care Network. Published every Thursday, this series is designed to shed light on the problems facing troubled youth and how the resources available through TVN truly change their lives and the world in which we live.
MOUNT VERNON — If the walls of the Children’s Resource Center could talk, they would tell stories of abuse and neglect, of resistance and healing, of fear and hope.
CRC is a safe haven and treatment facility for children who have been abused and neglected by people in their lives who should have protected and nurtured them.
“Most kids usually come here as a result of behaviors that brought them to the attention of school officials or juvenile probation,” said David Paxton, southwest regional director of The Village Network. “When we look further into it, we find they have a history of abuse or neglect.”
The abuse can be physical, psychological or sexual. Mental health assessments for the child, as well as family assessments, are conducted by CRC staff to help the referring children’s services determine the best approach to help the child. Options can include day treatment; residential therapy, with the goal of returning the child to his or her home; long-term residential therapy; or foster care. In many cases, Paxton said, these children are not reunited with their families.
CRC takes the children with more serious issues who cannot be helped in the traditional foster family environment.
“We are getting known for trauma care. We get cases that have failed at other programs,” Paxton said. “Some of these kids already have a history in the system with failed placements.”
Although word of their success in treating traumatized children has spread, one of the biggest obstacles for CRC, and the children it serves, is the amount of time that passes before it becomes evident a child needs the specialized treatment.
“It’s not always an easy determination to make, but it is getting better,” said Paxton.
Oftentimes, he said, it is not until the child starts to open up in therapy sessions that the cause for the aggression and dramatic behavior is learned.
“Their behaviors are out of control,” Paxton said. “They are participating in dangerous behaviors — selfmutilation, substance abuse, failing grades, skipping school, running away, aggression. We are finding it is the abuse and neglect that they just finished experiencing, or experienced when they were much younger, that is the root of their problem. That is what we are more and more focusing on.”
Through individual, group, family, art and recreational therapies, children learn to communicate their darkest secrets; this communication, Paxton said, is often the key to successful therapy.
Paxton told the story of a young girl with poor personal hygiene — she wouldn’t shower, her hair was greasy, she smelled bad and suffered from recurring urinary tract infections.
“We found out in therapy that she was abused in the bathroom, so she did everything she could to stay out of the bathroom,” he said.
It is through the different forms of therapy that staff members are able to put together the pieces of each child’s puzzle, creating the big picture of the child’s life that will hopefully lead to breaking the cycle of dysfunction and abuse.
“So much of this is generational, where parents were abused and neglected,” Paxton said. “We work with kids who witness tons of domestic violence, and we start talking to the parents in family therapy. Lo and behold, they were abused themselves.”
The ultimate goal, Paxton said, is to help the children overcome the trauma in their lives and learn to accept that it does not determine who they are.
“We give them a place to tell their stories and to begin to integrate it into their personalities and their daily lives,” Paxton said. “It’s not that they are just walking around wounded. They begin to get into perspective that this horrible event that happened in their life does not make up who they are.”
In the process, he said, the youth learn coping skills which encourage them to think through their thoughts before acting on them to make the right choices on a daily basis. Every small success in their healing process, Paxton said, leads to feelings of accomplishment, pride and hope.
Children placed in CRC come from counties all over Ohio, although Knox County does have preferential placement in the 20-bed facility.
“Knox County has guaranteed bed space here no matter what,” Paxton said.
The center treats youth from 10 to 18 years old. Young adults can stay in the transitional program until they are 21.
CRC is a private-public partnership through the Knox County Commissioners and The Village Network. The facility and property are rented by The Village Network from the county.