Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dancing with an Angel

By John Glass, Staff Trainer and Recreation Therapist, Sacramento Children's Home

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, you will hear many statistics about domestic violence. But behind the numbers are stories of real child victims. Although domestic violence is often thought of as a private issue between two partners, this is simply not the case. The ripple effect of abuse can be felt throughout communities, especially by children who are directly or indirectly exposed to it.

Angel (not her real name) moved to the Sacramento Children’s Home when she was 13 years old. She didn’t know her father, and her mother was an alcoholic who left her alone for days at a time or brought home strange men who abused her. Angel struggled with anger management issues and developed a daily smoking habit. When she entered the Children’s Home Residential Treatment Program, she was running away fairly often.

Growing increasingly concerned for her safety, staffers associated with Angel’s placement met with her to discuss the best way to move forward. They asked the teen, “What do you like to do? What do you feel you do well?”

Angel took a few moments and replied, “I like to dance.”

Coincidentally, we were just in the process of establishing an Expressive Arts program. The Specialist provided a variety of dance styles for Angel to experiment with, and she chose Jazz. Angel soon became the queen of our talent shows, and something interesting started to occur; Angel started caring about herself. She combed her hair neatly, she smiled more, she quit smoking, and she stopped running away. Angel realized she was good at something.

As a result, she began avoiding the negative influences of some of her peers. She attended school regularly and joined the dance program on campus. She began to take professional dance lessons off grounds. In fact, she did so well that she earned a scholarship to a state conference in Southern California. Angel was recognized for her dance achievements at a City Council meeting, and we celebrated in Old Sacramento with an enjoyable dinner.

Angel found her talent, and it changed her life. It boosted her self-esteem and gave her the motivation she needed to take on life.

Angel is just one of the many success stories coming out of the Residential Treatment Program at the Sacramento Children’s Home. Serving Northern California, the Children’s Home provides care for abused, neglected, traumatized and emotionally disturbed children, ages 6-18. Our Residential Treatment Program focuses on making significant and lasting behavioral changes through a combination of strength-based treatment, structured living environment, recreation activities, community engagements, and therapy.

Angel succeeded in large part because of her own talents, but also because she received the support, care, and encouragement to help her move past her previous hardships. At the Sacramento Children’s Home, our goal is to give children like Angel the treatment and tools they need to thrive.

A few years ago, Angel came by to say hello and see her old cottage. She was 32 years old at that time, and she shared with me that she was on her way to Japan. She was going to be teaching dance to children.

John Glass has worked at the Sacramento Children’s Home for 27 years and currently serves as the Staff Trainer and Recreation Therapist. He is a Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Independent Facilitator of the Love & Logic Parenting Curriculum, and Certified Pro-ACT Instructor (Crisis Intervention). John owns a training and consulting business specializing in social skills groups, parenting classes, teambuilding, individual crisis intervention plans, therapeutic recreation consulting, and CPR, AED, and 1st Aid instruction. He holds a Masters in Therapeutic Recreation.

The Sacramento Children's Home is committed to helping build strong families; to opening doors to the future; to maximizing potential; and ending the cycle of child abuse. Established in 1867, the Sacramento Children's Home provides care to the most vulnerable children and families in the Sacramento community. Community-based, residential and educational programs address the issues of children, newborn to 21, and range from prevention of child abuse and parenting education, to acute trauma treatment.