Welcome

Hi all who have stumbled here. This blog is my small bit to help the lives of children living through adversity. It’s about abuse and neglect and homelessness and any other number of really tough issues children face in our society today. And it’s about what we as children’s book people can do to help them.

There won’t be any easy answers here, but I hope to create an honest dialogue about serious problems many kids face and about what we as children’s book writers, publishers, librarians, and teachers can do to help.

Hemingway said in A Farewell to Arms, The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” My hope is that we are all strong in our own broken places and that we can use that strength to create fiction that could help heal a child.

I plan to post here once/week on different topics. I’d love recommendations on topics you’d like to see me cover, though I don’t guarantee that I’ll get to every suggestion. But I’d also like to compile a list of resources and books that are getting it right, so feel free to send those my way, as well.

And I just want to end this post with a beautiful poem written by a woman in The Bronx who’s working with teens in the prison and foster care systems. Her organization, VoicesUnbroken, www.voicesunbroken.org, gives these teens a voice through poetry. And when she read this poem at a conference I recently attended, it made me cry. Perhaps that’s why I’m starting this blog today.

Our words really do matter.

Youth Work
(or, despite what Hollywood movies and primetime made-for-tv specials promise, there will probably not be any grand gestures)
by: Victoria Sammartino

I

It is unlikely that a child who has been
abused, abandoned,
neglected, negated,
traumatized, tortured
half-loved, wholly-hurt
will collapse, weeping, into your arms
searching for solace.

Instead, there might be a time when a child will cry
rare,
raw,
overdue tears
right there in front of you
and no matter how much training and experience you’ve had
no matter how desperately you want to say and do just the right thing
you will be uncomfortable, unprepared, unsure.
You will likely make an unsatisfying gesture
and stutter on some clumsily-worded statements
that you’ll wish you could’ve written down first.

The frustrating truth is
there is just no right thing to do or say
when a child has been done all wrong.

II

You will want the children who have been
abused, abandoned,
neglected, negated,
traumatized, tortured
half-loved, wholly-hurt
to recognize how different you are
how much you want to help.
You will want them to give you the benefit of the doubt.

And even knowing that these are unrealistic expectations
won’t make it easier when there are
justifiably angry children
with fierce attitudes and unpleasant dispositions
who will lash out at you in the same ways they have been lashed out at;

or scared, restless children
who have had every tender place violated
and have retreated to a space you’ll never reach
and they don’t really want you in anyway;

or brokenhearted children
whose wounds are so fresh
and perhaps so familiar
that you will be tempted to turn away from them
or rest your own story at their feet
in a way that would likely do more harm than good;

or the children who are no different from any other children
except that, despite all of your patience and compassion,
you simply don’t like them,
are maybe even disturbed, disgusted by them,
though you’ll never use these words or admit to this strong a distaste.

You will look inside yourself for stubborn feelings of love
that are greater than any you knew you were capable of,
but some days it will just be a job
they will just be children
and you will just be
the perfectly flawed, well-intentioned grown-up you are.

III

Children who have been
abused, abandoned,
neglected, negated,
traumatized, tortured
half-loved, wholly-hurt
don’t want Hollywood heroines,
or terrifically talented teachers.
They don’t want your carefully chosen words
or hugs meant to heal all of the hurt.

They want the things that were stolen, broken, lost.
They want something more than any one of us can ever give them.
They want not to have ever been
abused, abandoned,
neglected, negated,
traumatized, tortured
half-loved, wholly-hurt
in the first place.

They want to be
appreciated, accepted
noticed, nurtured
taken care of, treasured
loved

we all want
to be whole.