One of the most terrible problems in America today is child abuse. It is not justifiable, but it is unfortunately widespread. Anyone can say this fact is tragic, but to do something about it takes a special amount of courage and compassion. Working with victims of abuse can be difficult and heartbreaking, but to the workers at Child Watch, seeing these victims improve is worth every tug on the heartstrings.
Child Watch was founded in 1984 by a group of community members that saw a problem in the Paducah area with child abuse. Since then, the non-profit organization has only grown. Lee Emmons is the current Executive Director of the program, and started in early 2012. She is passionate about her job, and firmly believes in the importance of not only helping abuse victims, but preventing abuse in the first place. Child Watch representatives visit elementary schools every year to talk to children about abuse, how to protect themselves, and what to do if they are being abused.
Lee’s line of work is very emotionally daunting, but she has ways of staying positive and making sure her coworkers do as well. “The fact that we know about [the bad things going on] is actually a positive because it means we can help.” She recalls, smiling, a specific case from when she first began working at Child Watch. A young boy who had been severely abused started coming to therapy, extremely withdrawn and scared, but that eventually changed. “He was terrified of adults; he wouldn’t play or make eye contact and he was completely nonverbal; he pretty much just cowered. It was probably six to nine months after he had started coming for therapy when I happened to walk downstairs one day, and he ran up to me with a big smile on his face, right up next to me, and said, ‘Look at my new shoes! I got new shoes!’ And he was beaming. Not only did he talk, he ran around and played and really wanted to engage me in conversation.” According to Lee, it was one of the first cases with the program where she saw a complete and total change in a child, and one that continues to stick with her today.
Child Watch offers help in four areas: therapy, education, CASA, and kids in crisis. Therapy consists of victims and their families meeting with professional therapists that specialize in trauma-informed therapy, which focuses on issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, attachment disorders, and a range of related issues. Education is the school visits and awareness materials. Lee describes it as “child abuse prevention and promotion of healthy relationships”. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. An “advocate” is assigned to a child whose case is being brought to court, and that advocate develops a relationship with the child, offering moral and emotional support through the trying time. It works closely with the McCracken County Family Court and is a volunteer-based program. Kids in crisis covers everything else that is not a part of one of the other three areas.
It is obvious that the program has a leader that feels strongly about what goes on here. “It is the most difficult, challenging, rewarding, important job I’ve ever done, with the exception of being a mother. And that sums it up. It can be, not just for me, but for everyone who works in this field, it can be a very, very difficult job, but it can absolutely be the most rewarding job.” She goes on to add, “The importance of making a difference for children cannot be overstated. And it does make a difference.”
Most importantly, Child Watch is a volunteer-oriented, non-profit organization. The vast majority of funding comes from donations from the public, ordinary people that want to make a difference in children’s lives. Grants also play a significant part. This ensures that the programs services are free to clients, serving McCracken and surrounding counties. The United Way of Paducah/McCracken County helps fund the program as well. To contact Child Watch, to donate, volunteer, or become a client, call 270-443-1440. Together, Paducah can help their community’s children have a brighter future.
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