Stuffed animals give kids courage to talk about abuse
by Abbey Doyle (Evansville Courier & Press Dec. 20, 2013)
A small stuffed lion doesn’t seem like much, but to a child receiving
therapeutic services at Evansville’s Lampion Center, it can provide the
courage needed to open up about the sexual or physical abuse or neglect
they are suffering.
“It is very hard for children to disclose these types of things,” said child
therapist Terra Norman. “We tell the children about how brave they are
and give them that lion – the king of the jungle – and stress that they are
brave, just like the lion. And it also gives them hope, shows the children
that we care about them and want them to be brave and successful.”
The Lampion Center, formerly Family and Children’s Service, has been
serving the Evansville area since 1885 with a mission of “empowering
individuals, children and families; lighting their path to stability and hope
through counseling, adoption services and community outreach.”
The Roary Program ensures each child therapy client receives a stuffed lion
during their first session at the Lampion Center. It began as a way to help
the children open up to counselors as well as give the center an outlet to
raise funds and awareness to what it does.
While Lampion Center has counseling services for people of all ages no
matter their ability to pay, what sets the agency apart from others is that its
staff is specifically trained to provide counseling to children age 6 and under,
Center Developement Director Jennifer Childress said. Traditional talk
therapy doesn’t typically work with young children who have experienced
trauma, she said. Some of the issues counselors deal with specific to kids
include sleep issues after experiencing a tornado or other traumatic event,
separation anxiety, issues in school and physical and sexual abuse.
Childress recalls hearing a child talk about the lion the client received – “I
brought my Roary today because Roary makes me brave,” the child told a
therapist at the Lampion Center, she recalled. “I’m going to be able to tell
you what I need to now.”
“It takes so much courage and strength from a child to tell a therapist what
happened to them.” she said. “We are able to work with other agencies to
make sure these children get to a safe situation first, but then what needs to
happen is to help that child renew their strength and everything else that is
required for that kid to be a kid again. And often times during that process
we see the child really cling to their Roary. It shows them that the Lampion
Center is the right place for them, that we believe in them and their families.
It really is the therapeutic tool for us; it empowers the children to tell their story.
”The lions are sponsored by donors to the center. For $20, a person’s name
and contact information is put on a card that is tied to the lion’s neck until it
is given to a child. Once distributed, the card is collected and Childress
writes a note to the sponsor letting them know the lion they donated has
found a home.
Childress said donors often are touched when they hear the lion has been
distributed hearing things such as, “It brought tears to my eyes,” or “I hate
that the child is going through the experience, but am glad I can help with
Lisa Tanner had a long-standing relationship with Lampion Center when she
and Sue Anne Mullen came up with the idea for the Roary Program. Tanner’s
father was on the center’s board decades ago, and she joined the board,
serving as president for two years. Tanner still is involved as a volunteer with
the center’s annual fundraiser, A Chocolate Affair, as the vendor chairwoman.
“We wanted to come up with a way to raise awareness of the center because
the people it serves can’t really tell their stories.” said Tanner, who owns
Tri-State Trophies with husband Harvey. “Tri-State Trophies helps a lot of
local organizations with fundraisers, and we wanted to come up with
something that could help Lampion but also touch the clients.”
So Tanner and Mullen, sales manager at Tri-State Trophies, came up with the
stuffed lions that now have become the center’s mascot.
“Lions are the kings of the beasts, they provide protection,” Mullen said. “We
wanted the children to feel safe. Having a stuffed animal like a lion will hopefully
give them a sense of protection and help connect them with the counselor. And it
provides reassurance for a child going through such trauma.”
Tanner said community members can make a huge difference in the life of a child
with the $20 donation.
In 2012, the Lampion Center provided counseling to 1,057 people and served more
than 2,000 through programs in schools and prevention programs in churches
and community organizations. The center provided 6,439 hours of counseling to
children, adults and families; 4,519 hours of parenting support; 1,380 hours of
Stewards of Children training (a sexual abuse prevention program); 795 hours of
early childhood development; 487 hours of student and employee assistance
programs; 194 hours of psychological testing and evaluation and 89 hours of
adoption services. Fifteen percent of the center’s clients are age 6 and younger,
and 57 percent are children, while 77 percent of their clients have an annual family
income of less than $20,000.
Childress said the Roary Program and A Chocolate Affair on Feb. 1, are the center’s
biggest fundraisers. The organization’s Christmas wish list this year has on it two
tablet computers to help the agency do prevention presentations outside the office.