Article from The News & Observer
FORT DODGE, Iowa
When people think of the Domestic/Sexual Outreach Center, they likely think of adults, suffering from domestic and sexual violence, seeking a place to stay.
One group they may not think about is the children of those who are fleeing violence.
It can be difficult for children who are living in the shelter, but one staff member works to try and make sure they live as normal of a life as possible.
The Messenger reports that Jamie Huse is the child advocate for D/SAOC.
Working at the shelter for 10 years, Huse said she makes sure the children at the shelter have everything they need.
“Back-to-school supplies, obviously we provide food, clothing, hygiene items,” Huse said. “But if the kids have a specific need, we try to get them something specific, or for entertainment value.”
Often times, children will arrive at the shelter at night with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Huse said it’s quite common for items such as a teddy bear or a blanket to be left behind.
Huse said she tries to do whatever she can to make sure the child doesn’t miss those items.
“We’re giving them a normal childhood,” she said. “We try to provide toys. We have a playground, bicycles, basketballs. We do what we can do in the small amount of space that we have.”
It can be hard on the children who have to live in the shelter, especially teenagers.
“They can’t have friends come to the shelter due to confidentiality and safety reasons of our other clients,” Huse said. “So we try to give them normalcy, like a video game.”
But it’s not just comfort items Huse provides them with. She also does counseling with the shelter’s children.
“I do individual counseling with all the kids that come in,” she said. “A lot of it is domestic violence. Some of them have other traumas like sexual assault issues. Whatever their need is, we’ll guide them from there.”
And if a child has a situation that Huse or her colleagues at the shelter are unable to handle, she has resources in the community that can help them.
D/SAOC also has a support group for children that Huse leads.
She said she tries to make it open for all children.
“We find time for them while their moms meet, the kids meet with me,” she said. “We do a fun activity or a craft. Then we focus on whatever topic we’re going to discuss that day.”
It’s important to help children whose mothers are victims of domestic violence.
“With trauma, a lot of times the kids get pushed to the side because (mothers) need to take care of basic needs like food and shelter,” Huse said. “Basic survival instincts. Sometimes the kids’ needs get pushed to the side and their voices get lost.”
Huse’s job is to make sure the children have that voice.
This past summer, Huse said she and another shelter staffer teamed up to create a parent-child interaction group, which aims to improve relationships between the adults who live at D/SAOC and their children.
“With trauma and violence, the bond gets broken,” she said. “Trust is hard to repair, so we’re trying to repair that, especially with moms and kids.”
Working with children is her favorite part of being at the shelter.
“It’s amazing what life can throw at them and how resilient they are and how grateful they are just for a listening ear,” she said. “Just ask them when they are in school when they come home how was their day – general conversations a lot of people take for granted because sometimes they don’t get to have those conversations at home.”
She also loves seeing the kids interact with each other.
“They feel safe and feel like they can be themselves and just be a kid,” she said. “Seeing them be able to interact with each other and having their guards down. They can just be themselves.”
An AP Member Exchange shared by The Messenger
If you or someone you care about was abused, and you would like advice from an attorney about the rights and options for victims of child sexual abuse, please contact Crew Janci LLP today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or by using our private online form. We will treat you with discretion and respect.