By Chris and Suzy DeWolf
Communities are stronger when the children living there are thriving. As parents who drive through Wellington Heights to take our kids to school each day, we see how much stronger the community is growing with the support of TotalChild.
We grew up in Cedar Rapids, and we returned in 2000 to continue our family business. We see our children deal with “typical” kid issues, but it wasn’t until we began working with Four Oaks on TotalChild that we realized the deep family crisis in our community.
As parents, it is distressing to learn that 100,000 Iowa children live in poverty and that 40 percent of the children in the child welfare system do not graduate from high school by the age of 19.
It is equally distressing to learn that in Iowa, 25,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect each year and that 8,000 children between the ages of 16 and 19 do not attend school and do not work. These high school dropouts are three times more likely to be arrested as adults.
We must put children at the center of our efforts and make sure we support them if we hope to see our community succeed. This is why we are inspired to work with Four Oaks. Through Four Oaks, each year we can help 14,000 children and their families climb above the challenges of poverty, neglect, abuse, hunger, mental illness, behavioral problems and family conflict.
The TotalChild program is the foundation for a strong community. The program has served children for two years, and more than 95 percent of those children have achieved stability. Because of TotalChild, these children have a comfortable, safe place to call home and they are getting the help they need to become successful students.
By supporting children through age 18, TotalChild is able to provide them with access to educational support; job training and preparation; basic needs such as health care, food, a consistent home and mental health services; and the benefits of family and community support. If these basic areas of a child’s life are covered, we can help our community’s children avoid becoming one of another statistic.
In one instance, TotalChild helped a mother get treatment and a job so she could gain custody of her children and provide the support and care they needed. A parent is the first role model for a child, and TotalChild provides access to the resources parents need to be the role models their children need.
In another example, TotalChild was able to help a child receive the care he needed to improve his behavioral issues while his single mother took advantage of TotalChild’s parent resources to enroll in college and find a job. Because of TotalChild, another child is on the path to stability and has the support he needs to succeed.
We are well on our way to meeting Four Oaks’ $6 million goal to support the TotalChild program. But, it will take the efforts of our entire community. Your help in raising the remaining $1.5 million is essential and would be appreciated.
We would all raise our hands to help our own children. Who among us will raise their hands to help children who need a voice?
Chris and Suzy DeWolf Cedar Rapids own Lil’Drug Store Products and are co-chairs of the TotalChild campaign along with Kyle and Susan Skogman. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org