The Cincinnati Enquirer published the below op-ed in its publication on March 14.
ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook had this reflection:
Anyone who has been alongside someone who is suffering knows too well how deeply we can feel another’s pain, another’s trauma. It’s the price of being human.
It is certainly true for the caseworkers at Job & Family Services who encounter the tragic and disturbing trauma of our community’s children. As highlighted in the Enquirer’s article on March 7, 53 percent of these caseworkers have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It’s not surprising, given how much these professionals witness.
They are the first responders when a 5-year-old little boy who has never been to a doctor and is seriously underweight is removed from his home in the middle of the night, with only the blanket he’s clutching. They are at the hospital to check on the terribly injured infant who is in the hospital after being shaken by a parent frustrated by her crying. They try again and again to gain a teen girl’s trust when those who were supposed to nurture her have called her worthless and thrown her out on the street.
We know these stories because at ProKids we work with these caseworkers to serve our children. And we know that one reason this trauma is so crippling is because people can often feel like they bear it alone. That’s why it is critical that ProKids recruits, trains and supports community members who can add their voices in speaking up for these children.
Decisions about a child’s future must be made with the utmost care. When a child is abused and neglected and removed from the only home they have ever known, they suffer trauma.
So ProKids volunteers and staff, in collaboration with other community’s child protection professionals, work every day to help abused and neglected children go beyond their trauma and find permanent and nurturing homes. We strive to help children get the services they need to heal and, most importantly, live in safe environments where they can thrive. And we work collaboratively to create opportunities for self-care, in the midst of this important work, such as continuing education about vicarious trauma.
The children themselves suffer PTSD at an alarming rate; it’s actually higher than for returning war veterans. But we know that the only way we as a community can be strong enough to care for our abused and neglected children and meet their needs is if we share responsibility for them and work together.
When a child knows they are safe, has a sense of stability, and is nurtured by people who care, they can heal from their toxic stress. When those working with these children have the support of those around them and our community, they can give children their best, and they can see a future with more hope for the generations that come.
Here at ProKids, our staff and volunteers are privileged to be on the front lines of child protection in advocating for these children. Our community’s children and future are too precious to sit on the sidelines. Join us.