Childhaven Executive Director, Dr. Jim Wright
CULLMAN – Childhaven's efforts to help its kids got a shot in the arm from its yard sale Friday and Saturday.
Dr. Jim Wright, Childhaven executive director, said, "It's been a good couple of days; very good, actually. The community's been very responsive. I don't have a final count yet for certain, but it's going to be somewhere in the area of $2,300-$2,400. We've been very blessed. It's been a good thing."
The funds from this sale will help pay for most of the 30 kids who live at Childhaven to go to Disney World this spring break. According to Wright, the group takes a trip to the mountains or beach most years; but once every five to 10 years, there will be a big trip to Disney World.
Childhaven has 30 kids in residence, and serves an average of 225 people per day in various programs throughout an 11-county area in north Alabama.
Wright explained what the organization is and does:
"We are a Christian children's home. We have a group home campus here in Cullman, where we serve about 30; we hope to expand that to 40 by the end of the summer. Then we serve almost another 200 people in 11 counties across north Alabama. These are children of families that are at high risk. We're either trying to get children back home with their families, or to prevent the families from losing their children into foster care."
In its region-wide intensive family service program, Childhaven works with entire families from whom children have been removed, or who have issues that could soon lead to removal. The organization can boast a 90 percent success rate in preserving or reuniting families.
"We get both ends of the spectrum. We work with families to try to prevent them from losing their kids into foster care; and we work with older kids here on our campus, many of whom will never go home."
For older youth who "age out" of the system, the chances of ending up in poverty, on welfare, or in prison are high. The people of Childhaven know that, and are responding.
According to Wright, "We have a program for that called 'Transitional and Independent Living' for 18- to 21-year-olds. Once they get out of high school, we try to get them at Wallace, get them educated, get them a job with benefits and a livable wage. They're part of our family forever."
Wright admits that the work is not easy or always pleasant, but after 24 years with the organization, his enthusiasm does not seem to be in danger of fading. He is much more focused on the challenges facing his kids than on those before him and his staff.
"People recognize that the children who live at Childhaven have had a difficult time," said Wright, "but I don't think that the average person recognizes just exactly how traumatic that life has been, and how drugs and violence have affected our children. We may give lip service to that, but until you've worked with these young people who've been traumatized by violence and drugs, it doesn't really come home to you. And as we work with those young people and give them hope, and try to build and instill faith in them, it's amazing the progress they make and how well they do.
"You hear these stories about foster kids being in jail, and how such a high percentage of those in prison grew up in foster care, and I'm sure it's true. But it is not true for the kids who grow up at Childhaven."
For more information on Childhaven, visit http://childhaven.com.
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