Press release from Children’s Hope Alliance:
The effects of child abuse are long-lasting. And patterns of child abuse can last for generations. It’s a tough cycle to break, but one month each year is dedicated to doing just that.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, designed to promote awareness of how to increase the wellness of children and families. And it’s a month that Children’s Hope Alliance (CHA) President and CEO Celeste Dominguez wishes would last all year long.
“It’s so important to support the well-being of families, to increase the protective factors that enable them to be resilient and spring back from adversity,” Dominguez said. “If our community and its resources provided families with enough resources and support on the front end, I really believe we could put an end to child maltreatment.”
A shift like that could make a world of difference in Western North Carolina. It’s been well over a decade since numbers have dipped below 3,300 for the cases of child abuse or neglect reported each year in Buncombe County alone, according to Casey Family Foundation’s KidsCount data. In 2019, roughly 7 percent, or about 1 in 15 children faced circumstances in their lives that warranted a report to social services. And that doesn’t count the number of situations that were never reported.
Child abuse and neglect is a primary reason why Children’s Hope Alliance exists – to provide hope, health, and healing to struggling children and families. In Western North Carolina, CHA has a robust Foster Care program, along with teams of professionals who provide specialized therapy for children and families.
But there aren’t enough families to meet the need for foster homes in the region. Like the numbers of children facing abuse and neglect, the numbers of children in foster care staggering – close to 500 in Buncombe County alone. And with the pandemic, the numbers are expected to explode.
That’s why Penny Nevels became a foster parent. She saw an advertisement about becoming a foster parent and she decided she needed to help. That was eight years ago. And she can only describe the decision as something that completed her life.
Since that time, she has had several foster children and adopted two sons. “I don’t see myself without helping teenagers find their purpose,” she said. “My goal is to adopt 16 year-old foster kids that want to be adopted. I don’t want any child to age out of the system feeling not wanted. I want to give them a place where they can have a forever home.”
It’s not always easy, however. Nevels describes the process of fostering as no different than raising any other children – just sometimes more challenging. “Foster kids are no different from any other child. They are just missing the skills that were stolen from them that need to be replaced.”
Kids just like Nevels’ adopted sons Desmon and Nathaniel. The boys arrived at her home lacking self-confidence and unsure of themselves. Thanks to Nevels, they’ve made tremendous progress. Desmon graduated from high school in January, worked hard doing landscaping jobs and building garden boxes, and saved enough money to buy himself a truck. He is now employed full time as a builder and dreams of owning his own business someday. Desmon’s brother Nathaniel is 17, working to finish high school next year, and plans to attend college to study business and management.
Many may wonder what the secret is to Nevels’ success. Nevels said the three keys are understanding, patience, and having a heart to help others.
If you are interested in learning more about foster care Western North Carolina, contact CHA Recruiter Trainer Amber Story at 828-406-2367 or go to www.childrenshopealliance.org/become-a-foster-parent. Training is always provided free of charge, and foster parents receive ongoing 24/7 support from the CHA team.