Welcome the Children
At Inner City Mission we stay out of the babysitting business. Our resident parents remain responsible for their own children even as they work to overcome the circumstances that brought them to homelessness. In the long run, this is to their benefit.
Parental responsibility and parenting skills are essential to maintaining a stable lifestyle. Watching our residents care for their kids in the safe environment of our shelter allows us to offer instruction if necessary and positive reinforcement in other cases. In addition, as resident parents trade babysitting duties in order to work or attend school, and work together to get the young ones off to school, they learn the value of inter-reliance and community.
We treasure and celebrate the children God has placed in our care, and we invest time and resources into helping them prosper. In this month's E-News, Children's Coordinator Tara Southard gives us an inside view of how we handle the great honor and responsibility that our time with the kids of ICM represents.
Also this month we introduce the new feature "Four from Facebook," grabbing pictures and snippets from social media to let you in on some of the day-to-day activities at ICM.
Our children's program
Tara Southard, started with ICM as a Stability Coach three years ago. Her affinity for the children gradually led her into her current role. "I've always had a passion for children. I have teenagers myself, and I get involved in their lives. I volunteer with kids at church and have worked with special needs kids. I've just always had that connection; it's something I've always felt drawn to."
Tara works with the kids and their parents in a variety of ways. "Anything that involves the children is under my umbrella. We celebrate each child's birthday in a big way, with decorations, games, and presents. If a child has family concerns I might speak to the parents. I go with the kids to the hospital if they have any medical problems. I attend IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings."
In February of this year, ICM instituted a children's program that runs for ninety minutes twice a week. "Monday and Thursday evenings the adult residents have Stability for Life classes," Tara says. "That's when I run the program. Right now, about a dozen kids are involved.
"Monday activities are mostly Bible based. Right now we're doing 252 Basics — a practical Bible teaching. This month we're focusing on Gifts and Virtues. Before that was Cooperation and Teamwork. At the end of that three week period the kids prepared a meal for the house and then cleaned up afterwards.
"For Easter, I did a teaching on the Easter story using Resurrection Eggs. I had the kids find elements to put in their own eggs to help them share the Easter Story with their families.
"On Thursday nights the program focuses more on academics. The children range from kindergarten all the way through 7th grade, so we do some group learning but there is a lot of one-on-one. Each child has his or her own folder. I gauge their abilities and find or develop materials to meet their needs. This Thursday we went to the Library at the Presbyterian Church and let them get library cards, taking on that responsibility."
Through participation in the twice weekly class, children earn "stars" toward a special treat such as a visit to Baskin Robbins or a small item at Wal-Mart.
Tara works in concert with the rest of the staff, which includes her sixteen year old daughter, Alyssa, who comes in to hold playtime with the younger children. Volunteers are a vital resource in working with the children as well. "There is a volunteer application we have them fill out," Tara says. "If anyone wants to come volunteer with children at the shelter I can set that up. Volunteer work with the children is always supervised.
Tara sees greater potential for ICM's children's program as it grows—a process made possible by ICM supporters.
"We are making church camp at Lake Springfield Christian Assembly available for any child who wants to do that this summer," she says. "This is due to Southside Christian Church covering the majority of camp fees for first time campers. We have just received grants from the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis and the Dominican Sisters Sacred Heart Covenant that will bless the kids as well.
"I would like to invest in more educational materials. Also, I'm looking into the possibility of signing the children up for art camps this summer.
"One goal, my personal dream, is to see our high school kids placed with one-on-one peer mentors from within the community. It would be great to see them develop relationships with Christian students their own age."
Details aside, Tara sees her main role simply: "It's about being there for them; letting them know there is someone looking out for them."
Items gleaned from ICM's Facebook page that give a glimpse into the lives of Inner City Mission residents and staff.
1. Resident Shaina has received her diploma qualifying her as a Dental Assistant. Open wide!
2. John Craner was our nominee for the Heart of Gold Award at the UIS Good As Gold ceremony which celebrates volunteerism. John is pictured below with Kelli Roseberry who he tutored and helped to obtain her G.E.D. Kelli is now taking college courses!
3. Brandy Lea passed her Practical Board Testing (cosmetology) and did very well. Awesome job Brandy! We are proud of you.
4. ICM to the rescue! Our staff had fun with an unusual batch of donated clothing.
- Roger graduated from Gateway's 30 day program this month. We offer praise for the help he's received, and prayers for his continued growth and success.
- We celebrate Brandy Lea and Shaina for their academic achievements and pray they find rewarding work in their chosen fields.
- Join us in praying for Kendra, who takes the GED test this week.
- Praise be to God for Gail's Baptism!
- We want to lift up Janeeka, who lost a parent this week.
- Please pray with us for our beloved team member Jeff Higginson, undergoing trying circumstances due to a medical issue. If you know Jeff, send some love to his Facebook page.
Here are the top needs of the shelter this month:
- Paper goods
- Household cleaning items
- Beef (hamburger, etc.)
ICM gratefully accepts donated items any time at our North 7th Street shelter. For a complete list of our current needs (which is updated weekly), click here