By Abbreial Drane
Approximately 200 people came together at our March 16 breakfast not only to renew the spirit, but also to celebrate the spirit of the youth we serve — that strength of spirit that helps them defeat the toughest opponents and come out champions. As members of the Uspiritus team, we are privileged to see, celebrate and be rejuvenated by their spirit each and every day.
It’s 2016 and children no longer live out their lives in orphanages that are fully funded and overseen by the local and faith-based communities. Children no longer work the farm to pay for and provide the food they eat. Children no longer have the option of avoiding facing the pain that brought them to our care.
Yes, they come to us in some of the same ways they did 100 years ago — abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty, loss of a parent. But today we provide life-saving psychological and psychiatric treatments to heal the wounds and provide hope long before the next generation is impacted.
Today we need the federal, state, foundations, individuals, and faith-based partners’ financial support to care for the children we serve.
I can report to you today that great things are happening at Uspiritus.
At last year’s breakfast, I promised that we were moving forward, removing barriers and having faith.
This year, Dr. David Finke and his team are building Uspiritus’ treatment program … one that I believe all Kentucky’s children should receive if placed in residential care. One built on evidence-based practices, research driven care, and trained trauma-informed staff at all levels.
We are expanding our relationship with the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work with practicum opportunities for master’s level students.
We’ve committed to joining community members for an Office of Juvenile Justice grant that will improve the identification, treatment and follow-up of youth at risk for human trafficking.
And, we have joined the parity team to improve trauma-informed practices in the juvenile and family courts.
Additionally, with financial help from a concerned parent/donor, we have begun the work of developing a comprehensive program for youth in transition to adulthood.
Doors have been opened a little wider at The University of Louisville’s Weiskoff Center, where children can receive evaluations, providing the roadmap for our therapists.
We’ve signed a covenant with our faith-based partners, opening pathways of support through prayer, volunteering and gifts.
Uspiritus also partners with Kentucky Youth Advocates and Children’s Alliance, and seeks to partner with all children’s service providers who are headed in the right direction of putting children first.
As you read this, you may think I’m proud of myself, but I’ll tell you I probably feel like my peers must from time to time. Most days, I feel as though I haven’t done enough.
Just a few weeks ago, I headed into the cafeteria to grab some lunch. I can usually walk through the tables full of children, passing out a hug, warm smile and sweet words to each child who calls my name to warm their day. But not this day. This day, one little girl took the hug and then, with a smile and joyful heart, asked me to adopt her.
I struggled with my answer, explaining that I wanted to adopt all of the children who live here and, if I did that, I couldn’t work anymore. I explained that I have two grown children of my own and three grandchildren.
She promised to be a good girl and help me around the house and care for my grandchildren. She held my arm and hoped for my positive response. I left her with hopes that those caring for her would find her a much better home, one with parents who could care for her, letting her be a child for once.
My answer was truthful but feels a bit lacking for one of faith. I’ve been the little girl wanting someone to just love me, take me home and let me be a child. It’s real to me.
I’ll always wonder if I can do more. I’ll always question what enough is. I only know that each of us must answer that question for ourselves.
As you consider that question, please think about what you can do each day to be a most valuable player for these kids. Thank you for all you do as a most valuable player on the Uspiritus team.