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[00:00:00.325] – Josh
Welcome to another episode of the We Are Tusc Podcast. My name is Josh Robinson and I’m going to be your host. Every episode we sit down with someone who is doing great work here in Tuscarawas County as a business owner, community servant or nonprofit leader. In this episode, we are joined for the very first time by multiple guests. We’re all connected with Noah’s Hope Child Advocacy Center. I am sitting here with Doug and Kristen Shoup. Who are both on the board of directors and with Mandy Prosser, who is the executive director here.
[00:00:25.675] – Josh
And they all have a heart for helping kids in abusive situations. And have spent years of their life advocating for those kids. Thank you guys for joining me today. It’s good to have you with us.
[00:00:33.745] – Guests
Thank you for having us. Thank you.
[00:00:36.145] – Josh
So let’s start today with a couple of ice breaker questions. We’re going to talk a lot about kids and the role on the part you guys have for kids. We’ll talk about some kid stuff today. So what is your favorite children’s movie?
[00:00:47.215] – Guests
Well, it is hard. I have a 15 year old son, and I don’t even know if Scooby Doo is a movie or if it was a series. I think both. He watch them religiously all the time. So I’ll have to go with some type of Scooby Doo movie.
[00:01:03.805] – Josh
And I have to ask, is that just because they’re familiar or do you genuinely enjoy the Scooby Doo experience?
[00:01:08.315] – Guests
I learned to enjoy them, I think they were cute at first and when you watch something for the 20th time, but that’s what sticks out in my head.
[00:01:19.435] – Josh
That is the nature of small children. Is that 20 times. What about you, Kristen? What is something, children’s movie that you just love?
[00:01:26.965] – Guests
I think I have two, that would be Cars and Toy Story. Any reason why? We watch them over and over and over again.
[00:01:40.165] – Josh
And Toy Story’s kind of have this long life because of the way it’s spaced out. Like your kids have grown up at the same age andy grew up. It’s been every 10 years it circles back around and kind of hit the new a new spot in your life, I suppose?
[00:01:52.285] – Guests
Yeah, it does. It does. My most favorite, though, with both of those movies would be the the first ones.
[00:02:00.045] – Josh
Fair enough. What about you, Doug? You’ve got a favorite kid’s movie?
[00:02:04.195] – Guests
I think this one actually crosses from whenever I was a child to both of our kids, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was just a movie I enjoyed when I was young and again with our kids.
[00:02:17.005] – Josh
I’m afraid to show that to my kids with my youngest sing songs all the time. And he will walk around singing the oompa loompa song non-stop if I let him know I’m not ready for that phase of life.
[00:02:27.265] – Josh
Yet another kind of kid friendly thing that’s kind of a grown up through the years. Do you have a favorite superhero?
[00:02:34.425] – Guests
My favorite superhero would have to be Wonder Woman and too much information, but when I was young, that was like the only female superhero, I think there was something called Underoos. My Cousins and I would run around in these little like basically a little bathing suits that were with Wonder Woman on them. So fair enough. You’ve got an answer.
[00:02:59.645] – Guests
I was going to say Wonder Woman, too, I don’t know, maybe it’s because of the we’re the same age pretty much. So that was always one of my favorites also.
[00:03:10.505] – Guests
OK, so. For me, I think I would say Superman again, go back to my childhood years and that was the big superhero movie and just always enjoyed seeing the powers and everything he was able to do to help others. You just always wanted to be indestructible. Yes, that’s right. The laser. All right.
[00:03:31.405] – Josh
Well, let’s jump in then. We had a little ice breaker with each other. Let’s jump into what you guys do here at Noah’s Hope. You could describe for our listeners and i’ll let Mandy do this. You’re here, the executive director. What exactly do you do for people who maybe are completely unfamiliar with Noah’s Hope?
[00:03:45.985] – Guests
So we provide forensic interviews of children who have been sexually abused or physically abused or neglected. The first step is our intakes generally come from Tuscarwas County job and family services, their child protective unit. They are the only agency in the county that investigates abuse or neglect. So if they get a case where the child is sexually abused or extreme physical abuse, what we do is they will then contact me and we will set up an interview here at the agency.
[00:04:19.105] – Guests
The reason for this is we want to provide the least (traumatic experience). We don’t want to retraumatize children. So previously, if some type of abuse happened to children, that law enforcement is going to be involved. That child could have been interviewed three or four times. It would have been probably at a police station, at the hospital, in their house. And sometimes they were interviewed out in their front lawn or being asked what happened if a crime is taking place inside.
[00:04:47.755] – Guests
So by doing the interview here at Noah’s Hope there in our agency, looks like a home when they walk in. We have a waiting room, but it’s very homey. They go back to the interview room, which is just has living room furniture in there. So they sit there only with one person. That’s the forensic interviewer who asks all the questions. Then myself, members of law enforcement, they have individuals from the prosecutor’s office. We can have family advocates.
[00:05:15.025] – Guests
We all watch the video live in our conference room. So that way, if we have questions, the forensic interviewer, towards the end of the interview, will come out and we’ll talk to her. We will let her know of any questions that we have or anything that needs clarified or anything. We need more information. So she’s in the back and talk to that child so that child doesn’t have to be presented with a whole bunch of different people asking a different question.
[00:05:38.185] – Josh
A couple of things just to kind of follow up about what exactly is a forensic interview for somebody listening who maybe doesn’t know what a forensic interview is. Can you describe that process a little bit?
[00:05:47.425] – Guests
A forensic interview? It’s a more in-depth training for somebody to be able to complete a forensic interview they have to go through. It’s almost a week long training to learn certain techniques. And it’s just a way to assure that we are not steering a child in a certain direction or planting thoughts or ideas in their head that it’s an interview practice, that they’re certified in.
[00:06:11.875] – Josh
Attempting to discover evidence basically that can be used further down the road?
[00:06:15.325] – Guests
And like you said, so one of the ideas here that makes Noah’s Hope unique and we are sitting here in the home in this place is exactly how you describe it online. It feels like you’ve just walked into a friend’s house. We’re sitting at the dining room table with the kitchen door. But you’re trying to make it. They’ve already been through some sort of trauma and you’re trying to make it so that there’s not another trauma on top of that to the best of your ability.
[00:06:36.485] – Guests
That’s exactly what we do. And I should also clarify too where as all of the initial reports of abuse or neglect have to go in through job and family services, we have started over the last year that if they have something that it doesn’t meet state guidelines or they don’t take it on as an investigation. If law enforcement is still involved, we will still take on those cases here, so they don’t have to have a JFS case to be able to have our services.
[00:07:00.785] – Guests
So after that interview is complete, what we do is we want to wrap the family in every service that we can. So if that means the family needs counseling, if they need help finding a baby sitter, if they need help with food, any of those things, we’re going to make sure they are not leaving this building until they have all those needs met or at least appointments made or sometimes counseling can take a week or two to get in so they’ll at least have an appointment.
[00:07:29.795] – Josh
I want to shift here and Kristen and Doug, just a minute. You guys have obviously been heavily involved in promoting awareness of child abuse and trying to provide resources for that. Can you talk a little bit about some of the trauma maybe that flows out of kids who’ve been through that and why your heart is so much into that particular topic?
[00:07:48.155] – Guests
So in 2006, our youngest son, Noah, was murdered by his babysitter.
[00:07:56.315] – Guests
And through that, we had to go through a lot of processes which included police and detectives and child services, doing multiple interviews of our surviving son. His name is Evan. So this is where we saw, unfortunately, that Evan had to keep repeating what happened to multiple sources over and over again. And Evan was only four and a half at the time. And at some point, sometimes they don’t want to talk. They’re not going to necessarily say anything.
[00:08:38.315] – Guests
They’re nervous. You have police officers with uniforms and stuff, and it’s kind of scary. So that was one thing that was that we noticed. I think it just goes back to what Mandy was talking about with trying to help the child and not retraumatize the child in that. And what we saw happen with our with Evan, our son, by no one’s fault. But it did happen to him as well.
[00:09:09.335] – Guests
And at the time, though, we didn’t have a CAC here in Tuscarawas County. So there wasn’t that possibility. But when this was founded in 2011, that helped resolve that issue we had here in the county
[00:09:26.225] – Josh
and you guys had been doing work for child abuse awareness prior to the founding of the CAC, and it just kind of became like a natural fit, right?
[00:09:34.145] – Guests
Yeah. So ever since Noah was killed, we wanted to do something to help children in some way.
[00:09:43.925] – Guests
But we also wanted to get back to the community because so many people had reached out and helped us throughout the years. So in 2007, we had just a fundraiser at my parents cleaning company property. That first year I think we had was like a garage sale, a couple small activities. There’s a sheriff deputy there. And all the money that we raised, we gave to Akron Children’s Hospital. That’s where Noah was last treated.
[00:10:13.295] – Guests
And that’s where they recognize that his injuries were not an accident, that it was intentional. And from there, we kept growing the what we ended up calling Noah’s Hope fundraiser. And we held it for nine years. And then I think it was 2015 or so we we started splitting the money that we raised, we gave half to Akron Children’s still, but then we gave the other half to the Tuscarawas County CAC. Just kept growing from there.
[00:10:46.975] – Josh
That’s awesome. Hard to hard to imagine the pain there, but also to see that you take that and begin to use that to try to help other people. I want to shift back to the manual because we’ve use this word trauma a lot. And that’s kind of you’re going to be able to speak to that. The word trauma for kids can mean a lot of different things. It can be anything from being physically abused themselves, being in the presence of violence.
[00:11:07.975] – Josh
Can you describe for people who maybe, fortunately for them, never had to be in that situation what exactly trauma is and how that affects children, both in the short term and in the long term?
[00:11:20.815] – Guests
Each child is different if you think about children’s personalities and everybody has a different personality. So a trauma affects children in different ways. A lot of times what we will see is acting out behaviors. It could be a school or it could be just a withdrawal from things that they typically like. A lot of times it is the acting out behaviors where it might be something completely unrelated that this child just can’t sit and do their schoolwork. And they are their behaviors are basically out of control.
[00:11:55.735] – Guests
The things that that we hear and see now, they’re very aggressive. They can have aggressive behaviors, things like that. So that’s a lot of what we see. But sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes you will have a child that’s perfectly well behaved and you don’t think anything’s going on because they’re not actively displaying that. But those ones are ones to really be careful of too because maybe they’re just crying all the time. Or you just sometimes the parents will say they just knew something wasn’t right.
[00:12:27.785] – Guests
They saw this change in them and their mentality that they didn’t know what was going on, because a lot of times, let’s say sexual abuse, if it happens at the hands of somebody that was close to the family, the child doesn’t always disclose right away. So the family seeing this change in behavior, which isn’t always bad it’s just the child’s more withdrawn. They’re not doing things that they want to do. Sometimes with sexual abuse, you’ll see children will stop bathing themselves, things of that nature, kind of like as a protection that if they feel like if they if there’s that odor there, maybe somebody’s not going to bother them or touch them again.
[00:13:08.615] – Guests
Each child is different than what we see in them, trutha child can be doing better. We can put them in services. They can be going to counseling. And that doesn’t mean that it just goes away. You can see that they might learn better coping skills and ways to deal with things. But the underlying long term effects, like we don’t know what those are. We don’t know how somebody is going to deal with it and be able to cope with it.
[00:13:38.755] – Josh
And a lot of ways, the way I describe it to people is that we all have those moments where we go into the fight or flight mode, that something scares us to either run away or we fight back. And for a lot of kids who’ve been through trauma, they basically live there and everything is scary to them because they’ve been hurt or because they’ve been around something that’s scary for so long. And that’s part of why what you do here is so important.
[00:14:00.115] – Josh
What you’re trying to do is take the fear away from this process. It’s not going to be a fun process no matter how it happens. But if we can take some of the fear out for those kids, then perhaps we can help them to process it in a little bit of a healthier way. So I want to talk specifically about some of the things you do here that I thought were really cool as I was digging through stuff. So tell me a little bit about the comfort dog, Alexa.
[00:14:21.925] – Guests
We have a facility dog, Alexa, and she is, to describe Alexa. She is very calming. She loves to lay into sleep. And that’s basically the only behaviors that you’ll see from her. But she is amazing with the kids. We have toddlers in here. At times it’s hard to interview, but if somebody wants one done, we’ll absolutely try. They will climb all over her and she just lays there and allows them to. And it is a comfort thing.
[00:14:51.595] – Guests
Before we had Alexa, whenever we’re doing an interview towards the end of it, the interviewer will leave the room and the child was always just left to kind of sit in there. And it wasn’t long, but five, ten minutes while we’re gathering whatever information we need from the interview and but the child just left in there by themselves, will. Now, Alexa is in there. So they just sit there and they pet her and love on her and on our surveys that we get back, we ask each family to fill one out.
[00:15:21.055] – Guests
And there’s always something about Alexa and how comforting Alexa is. It’s just her calming presence. You can’t help but not just love her and. Kristen, I see you nodding along, I take it you’re a big fan of Alexa, the comfort dog? I am a big fan of Alexa. She comes around quite a bit. I know I’ll stop in here some days and she will be in here watching everything happen. She just she’s a great dog.
[00:15:49.635] – Guests
That’s almost comical how relaxed she is overly
[00:15:55.555] – Josh
and just such an ability to bring that calmness to the kids too, where my kids go to school. They actually have the guidance counselor and the dog that she brings in twice a week, that the kids get the pet and does wonders for some of the anxiety of some of the students that she works with.
[00:16:08.965] – Guests
And I have noticed too a lot of times, I think it’s hard when you’re telling some of the worst stories of your life to look at the person that you’re talking to about it. So a lot of times they’ll look at Alexa, almost like they’re speaking to her. So she’s a great benefit that way.
[00:16:24.805] – Guests
I was just going to say, it’s funny with Alexa, she works and then she has her time off and when she’s working, she’s wearing a vest. And it is a very clear difference in who she is without her vest. She’s her tail wag and she gets excited like she’s a normal dog. But when she has a vest on, she knows she’s working and she’s there for the kids there to bring comfort and to be therapeutic. Absolutely.
[00:16:50.545] – Josh
The other thing I saw online that I just I love, in part because of some things that our own family. Tell me about the superhero capes.
[00:16:58.735] – Guests
Well, we have some capes here that are hanging around the center. We have them in the waiting room and we have them in the interview room. And there were two little boys that we had interviewed and the one lady was five or six. He was just scared and timid and he started to disclose some abuse, but he just wasn’t ready in during the interview process. We will never, ever force a child to talk or talk about something they don’t want to. If they’re not ready, we stop. We let the caregiver and we let the child know at any time. If you want to come back and talk to us, you can come back and talk to us.
[00:17:36.985] – Josh
Again, You’re trying to avoid the trauma there. You don’t want to make it any worse by by pushing for something.
[00:17:40.795] – Guests
Exactly. So he was in a different placement with a different caregiver. He was there about a month. And he had during that time we had he was set up with counseling. So he had been going to start some of that trauma treatment. And a month later, we got a call that he wanted to be reinterviewed and he shows up at the door and he has this little cape on.
[00:18:03.055] – Guests
And he was just the cutest little thing in my heart. But he was in that room and he was just so brave and just so ready to get that out of him that he fully disclosed law enforcement directly went and found the bad guy, interviewed him, got an arrest warrant that day, and he was placed in jail where he still is and will be for a very long time. Now did the Cape have anything to do with that, probably not, a little bit safer.
[00:18:32.245] – Guests
But to me, I was just like. We’re getting capes. I don’t know, if somebody if they do, they don’t feel brave, they can wear it, maybe it’s just like just something for them. But every day, though, when I walk in and see them, I just remember why I was here and why we did this.
[00:18:49.875] – Josh
And I just want to say again, I hope that most people who are listening have never been through any of this. But if you’ve not, what you ask kids to do does require a great deal of courage. You’re not asking them typically to tell you about some bad guy they met at the store. Most often you’re asking them to tell you about the babysitter or the school teacher or the uncle or whoever. And that takes great courage to be able to tell those stories to people that they just met.
[00:19:16.905] – Guests
I think one of the things that people kind of have a misconception of is you know somebody is going to steal your kid at the park and they’re going to molest them or something. In all the time here and when I was in jail for 10 years prior, only one time, we had somebody that they did not know the person. With this, it’s always somebody that’s very close in these kids lives. And that’s a big thing right there. Like, how do you tell mom that this could be biological, biological dad step dad, like you said, Uncle, a family member has been doing this because they know it’s not right, but they’re fearful for what will happen to their family.
[00:19:55.075] – Guests
You know, we get some we get older kids that they’ll say, you know, I never told anything because we wouldn’t have a house. I don’t know where we would live. He’s he was going to work, but is just terrifying.
[00:20:07.035] – Josh
So let me ask you, I’m a switch back to Kristen. So you have kind of made this at least part of your life calling, so to speak. Some things happen in your own life, the pain that you shared. What is it that keeps you still involved in a place like this? Why are you still here doing this 15 years basically after your own story unfolded
[00:20:27.045] – Guests
I mean, it’s just it’s it’s in our hearts. We want to we want to be able to do everything we can to help other kids and hopefully prevent what happened to our own son, providing the means in the community to help those that are going through something horrific is just, it’s just in our hearts now. I think that’s it. I also think it’s important to note that people that do this sort of thing to children, they shouldn’t be allowed out walking freely, they shouldn’t be allowed out near children. So, you know, another thing is to have these people prosecuted and held responsible for what they’ve done to these kids.
[00:21:14.065] – Josh
So what exactly does it mean for you at this point, sitting on the board of directors? What is your involvement here at Noah’s Hope these days?
[00:21:20.955] – Guests
Well, we discuss a lot of the financial stuff, we operate mainly on grants and fundraisers and donations, so it’s a lot of financial stuff, but also we try to promote awareness. So if there’s events that we can be at to help to do that, then somebody is usually there from the center here.
[00:21:47.445] – Josh
What is that? What does that look like? You say you want to raise awareness of child abuse. What should people be aware of?
[00:21:53.895] – Guests
So I would say, you know, a lot of younger kids don’t really necessarily know that what’s being done to them is wrong. The more that we promote that that nobody’s allowed to touch you and that sort of thing, I think even within the schools with the teachers helping and stuff to say you’re in charge of, you,
[00:22:21.155] – Josh
It’s funny you say that because it’s amazing what we can get used to in our own home, but we just don’t know any better. And so everyone who’s listening to this and those of us who say, well, you have some weird thing that you do in your house, that an outsider will come along and say, you wash the dishes that way or you call that a meal, you eat that for dinner like all of us have one or two of those weird things. And so for some of these kids, it’s just this is what life’s like. I’ve never known any different. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. And so being able to provide that education and also, I think probably helping people look for signs and know what to do if they suspect this is part of that as well.
[00:22:54.105] – Guests
Yeah, if the public knows that this facility is here and that there’s stuff that we have access to an agency that we can direct you to for further help, I think that’s great. And we’re so lucky to have this facility. When Noah was killed, as Doug had said earlier, we didn’t have this facility. And we thankfully, Akron Children’s has a care center, which is a child at risk evaluation center, which is all they’re specialists in abuse. And they then notice the sign, the definite abuse on Noah and came to us. And that’s when the ball really got rolling. And, you know, it takes a long time to get to trial and to get all the facts and everything like that. And they played a huge role in putting this woman away. I can imagine what other kids are going through. As well, but if they know that, we can make it stop. Then maybe that’s all they need.
[00:24:14.105] – Josh
Yeah, so let’s go this direction. One of the things that you guys have mentioned a couple of times is the Akron Children’s component of things. You have kind of a unique connection right now with the Akron children’s child abuse through some technology. You want to describe some of that Mandy, how that works and what makes that so special.
[00:24:31.695] – Guests
In Tuscarawas County, We are one of the first to have what’s called telehealth. So rather than having to send the child and their parent up to Akron Children’s for an exam, we are able to do that at our office down here at Akron Children’s Hospital so that everything is done by a nurse that has specialized training in doing these telehealth exams. And they actually do the medical exam on camera in the doctors up at the Akron Children’s are able to review those.
[00:25:04.085] – Josh
So it’s funny, not funny or interesting about that is everyone just got familiar with telehealth in the last nine months. if You had a doctor’s appointment since March. You are now familiar with like. Oh, they can do they can check all this stuff out without ever seeing me.
[00:25:16.745] – Guests
And we’ve had it for years. if something would have happened within seventy two hours of the child, we would have always sent them up to Akron children, we would have made sure somehow they got up there if the family didn’t have transportation. That’s something here that we would have arranged for you to make sure they had gas money, those type of things that within seventy two hours there’s forensic evidence that could be collected during exams. So those other ones are the non acute cases that will be seen at the doctor’s office here.
[00:25:46.895] – Josh
That’s really cool. So one of the things that you mentioned earlier, Kristen, is that you didn’t have a center like this when you went through that. And so I just want to make I want to say again for people, what’s so cool about what you do here is that in the process of the child abuse situation, the police’s primary focus is catching the bad guy. Oftentimes, JFS primary focus is finding a place for the kid to stay. And so your role in all of that is to be the one who says we have to do what’s best for the kid, not just catch the bad person, not just find a place for them to sleep, but we have to put their needs first. Is that a pretty accurate statement of what you guys try to do here?
[00:26:21.155] – Guests
Yeah, it is. And I, I just have to say that we work so well together as a team. I consider us at Noah’s Hope kind of like as the hub that kind of holds everything together and make sure A is talking to B and talking to C. So that would be my role to make sure everybody is still on the same page. But you’re exactly right. Law enforcement’s job, they need to catch the bad guy. They’re not maybe thinking about how to talk to a three year old about something that happened to them. You know, they’re used to talking to bad guys and not that they don’t care about the three of you. That just can’t be their primary focus.
[00:26:54.095] – Guests
Right. And so that’s one thing that comes out of that forensic training is how to be on that child’s developmental level, age level, all that thing. So that’s where the forensic interview is very important. Then we have JFS that their role is to make sure everybody’s safe in that house and that’s working with law enforcement to, again, catch the bad guy and see what exactly happened to this child. So here, us here at Noah’s Hope. We’re encompassing the whole family. So we might have one child that is the victim. But if they have however many siblings, we’re going to make sure all their needs are met too. They might not have a forensic interview done. But if they, if we see something or the parents alert us to something that’s going on with them, we’re going to set up services for everybody.
[00:27:43.385] – Josh
So there’s a quote that’s on your website and actually shows up in a lot of the things that you guys put up emotionally. So it takes a community to meet the needs of children impacted by child abuse. What does that mean, whoever wants to take that and run with that, what do you mean by that? That it takes a community to meet the needs of children impacted by child abuse?
[00:28:01.235] – Guests
Noah’s hope wouldn’t work as well as it did. we can’t do it by ourself. JFS cannot do it by himself. Law enforcement can’t do all the pieces by themselves. They need to encompass the whole family. So just that it takes a community that’s all of us working together. It’s the people. If you’re in the grocery store and you see something that doesn’t seem right, that’s what our whole awareness and prevention is, call it in. You can always make a report, you don’t have to know everything. But if something isn’t sitting well, you need to make the report.
[00:28:33.345] – Josh
So that’s actually what made me think about that quote, you talk about all of those pieces working together. And the other thing I’ve noticed as I was digging through stuff is you’ve got a ton of community support from businesses to groups or organizations. Kristen, you even mentioned some of the fundraisers. Why do you think the community is so into what you guys are doing here?
[00:28:49.185] – Guests
I think we have a very compassionate community that cares a lot about the children in the community, when we first started doing our fundraisers for Noah’s Hope. I think the first year we may have done three or four thousand and then the next year was maybe seven thousand. And then eventually, as years gone by through the nine years, I think our last few years we had done around eighteen or nineteen thousand.
[00:29:20.445] – Guests
And this was just a fundraiser, put a family fun day they put together at the family cleaning company property, the more help we had, the bigger and bigger that it got and local businesses, we would tell our story and they would give us all kinds of stuff, gift certificates and gift baskets and stuff to auction off for a silent auction. Some businesses that don’t really have retail, stuff like that would donate checks, like they’d just write checks and donation. And even to this day, will send a check monthly or yearly to help support us because we are a non-profit. We are not government run. We don’t get all these, you know, state funds and all this stuff. It’s all through grants and donations.
[00:30:18.135] – Josh
But one of the things the folks who are listening have heard me say over and over again is that part of the origin of this podcast was I have been impressed by how many people passionately care about what happens in this community. And some of them are business owners and they don’t run a service necessarily, but they donate generously of their time or energy. I think what you’re describing is exactly true, that you show them the problem. And there are all sorts of people who are eager to try to help meet that problem. And I think it’s neat that you’ve been able to pull all of those different community resources from businesses to neighbors to law enforcement and work together to meet a serious need of the community.
[00:30:53.055] – Josh
What we’ve heard from from Doug and Kristen about how they ended up here, man, you want to tell us a little bit about your journey? How did you end up executive director here at Noah’s Hope? I know that you had some experience in JFS, but kind of how did you get to here?
[00:31:05.895] – Guests
I was previously at job and Family Services. I was there about 10 years before coming here. I started out in their child protective unit as a worker who investigated child abuse and neglect, ended up being a supervisor as a supervisor there the last couple of years. And then the previous director was taking a position with the state. So when it opened up, it just seemed like a natural fit because we do work so closely with Job and Family Services.
[00:31:34.305] – Josh
So what led you into the Job and Family Services role to begin with? Have you always had a heart for kids in that situation?
[00:31:40.365] – Guests
I have. I don’t know, starting out i don’t think when I was younger, going to school, I thought, hey, I’m going to work with abused children. But my sister suffered. She has some physical disability. She has cerebral palsy. So I think I just always had that helper mentality. When you’re in school and they pick the kids to go to camp to be the counselor and stuff like camp counselors and things like that, I’ve always been in those roles. So I went into actually counseling is my background. And then I focus on school counseling and then a position opened up at JFS And I went there and I just stayed until this opened up.
[00:32:24.575] – Josh
and so do you feel like you found a home, you feel like this is something you’re going to do for quite a while?
[00:32:29.215] – Guests
I’ll be here till I retire until they kick me out. I don’t plan on going anywhere. Good. I’m glad to hear that.
[00:32:35.465] – Josh
So one of the questions that I ask in every interview I do, because some of the folks I’ve talked to, you guys have, there are a lot of dark days. And what you do here, there are a lot of sad stories or a lot of emotional moments, probably days where you want to go home angry. But we don’t do things year after year unless there’s some sense of joy. There’s got to be something that brings us back. So I’m going to ask all three of you individually, what what joy do you take from being involved in Noah’s Hope, or what is it that keeps you coming back day after day
[00:33:02.615] – Guests
Knowing you made a difference in at least one child or one family. And if it’s a child that maybe wasn’t doing so well and talking about trauma before, was they having a whole bunch of behavior problems and running in or hearing from the teacher or the counselor saying this is a different kid sitting there or seeing a mom who or any parent and not picking on moms that had drug issues, that went through treatment, that you stood by as a support for them to see them clean. And then they come up to you in the grocery store and they’re like, thank you. Thank you for saving my life.
[00:33:38.285] – Josh
You literally are in the business of changing lives and changing futures. And not that, it’s not arrogant, it’s not prideful. That’s what you’re doing. And that’s remarkable. What about you, Kristen? What keeps you coming back? What do you find, Joy, in being involved here at Noah’s Hope?
[00:33:51.545] – Guests
I think it’s it’s basically knowing that we’re providing help for kids and their families. I know, gosh, when we went through Noah’s death and everything we were lost, had no idea what to do in this place here will provide some direction for people that are lost and their children are hurting or or whatever is happening. I’d like to think of it as we can’t really make it better, but we can make it stop.
[00:34:31.445] – Josh
What you’re providing exactly what the name says, you’re providing hope you’re giving them this idea that it doesn’t have to stay the way it is, that there’s something better out there tomorrow or next week. And you’re you’re giving hope to people who maybe don’t have it anywhere else. what about you, Doug? What keeps you coming back and involved here at Noah’s Hope?
[00:34:47.945] – Guests
Also echoing pretty much what Kristen said, knowing that what we’re doing is helping children and giving back to the community again. So many different people and organizations reached out and helped us when we were going through hell back in 2006. And this is just a small way that we can help give back and to kind of echo giving hope. Our logo is that it’s the heart with a Band-Aid, knowing that that scar that will end up will never go away, but we can help that child family move forward.
[00:35:30.505] – Josh
The imagery of a scar is so helpful because the open wound will go away. It’ll stop bleeding. It’ll start to heal. You always have that scar, that reminder, but it doesn’t have to stay an open wound all the time and that that healing is possible. So I saw that you brought some of your numbers and I’m going to give you a chance to share those. The last couple of years have been a big season of transition here for Noah’s Hope. You’ve come on as director in the last couple of years, the new facility even read online, you’re starting to do more than just child abuse, but help with some other areas of trauma. So tell me a little bit about how Noah’s hope is grown.
[00:36:03.955] – Guests
We have went in 2019. We served 78 children. And then this past year in 2020, that number was up to 119. And that was during the pandemic when kids weren’t being seen at school. So they weren’t being seen by mandated reporters. So consistently across the board of what we’re hearing in other counties is numbers have dropped. So while their numbers have dropped for interviews. Ours have increased by a considerable amount. And as I had previously discussed, that we take on cases as long as law enforcement’s involved that JFS isn’t. So we had 31 cases that did not have a JFS investigation. So that’s that is huge because that’s where that gap was because of the state guidelines.
[00:36:50.125] – Josh
So those are families that would not have had had any services at all unless you had stepped in?
[00:36:55.945] – Guests
Yeah, exactly. So if they were if there wasn’t a JFS investigation, law enforcement is doing their part, but the families aren’t being linked with any services. So. 31 of those families, thats exacty what they’re going through.
[00:37:09.925] – Josh
That has to be freeing for you that have spent all those years. And I think some people, people maybe don’t understand. There are a lot of like. Certain guidelines and regulations and way things have to happen, and I don’t see hoops to jump through, hoops to jump through, and the ability to be here where you can just go help people must be freeing for you.
[00:37:30.155] – Guests
It is. And it’s no, it’s guidelines that JFS has to follow. So say, for example, the perpetrator doesn’t live in the house and it wasn’t apparent. Well, that’s not abuse or neglect because the parents are doing what they need to do to protect their child so they wouldn’t investigated that. But you’re still left with law enforcement to do this investigation and you’re still left with a parent whose child has been sexually abused and they have no idea where to turn to, what to do. Their head is spinning.
[00:37:59.435] – Josh
and you guys are able to step into that gap. And that’s the wonderful, wonderful thing. What’s the next thing for Noah’s Hope? So how does it continue to grow? Obviously, your numbers are going up. What is kind of a service you’d like to be able to provide or a place you’d like to go that maybe you haven’t been able to?
[00:38:16.775] – Guests
For me, one thing would be to actually have this as our home, this is our building that we were able to purchase it. But as far as the work we do, I would love to have full time forensic interviewers on staff. It works very well. The partnership that we have with Job and family services that they have there, the forensic interviewers have other jobs in other cases. So if we were able to have a full time forensic interviewer here. That would just be amazing.
[00:38:46.355] – Josh
And it looks like based on the way your cases are going up, something that may be a need soon, it’s a need.
[00:38:52.945] – Guests
It definitely is a need. The problem that we fall under is this stuff like that. Right. Staffing and things are is grant funded through the victims of crime grants. And everybody who receives that grant has taken about a thirty four percent cut this past year, as is the case with a lot of nonprofits.
[00:39:12.425] – Josh
You’re doing great work and trying to fund it is always the struggle, right?
[00:39:16.805] – Guests
I would just like everybody. For everybody to know that Noah’s hope is here and this is what we do and that they have some place to go to help them. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. And even if it’s something that we don’t do here, we will most definitely get them in touch with wherever they need to be.
[00:39:39.515] – Josh
Well, you guys are doing great work for our community here. And I thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me. Thanks for joining us today.
[00:39:47.105] – Josh
Once again, my name is Josh Robinson and this has been the We Are Tusc podcast. Thank you for joining us. If you happen to know if somebody would be a good interview subject someone who cares about our community is doing good work. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I look forward to talking to them. Thanks and have a great day.