Throughout all of our programs and services, we impact the lives of thousands of children, adults, and families throughout the state of South Dakota. And we couldn't do it without your help and support. While the names and images to follow have been changed to respect and protect the confidentiality of those we serve, their stories are real.
When Isaac was seven, he had a very chaotic home life and his parents used very harsh and abusive methods to discipline him. Criminal activity was the norm for this household. Both parents ended up in prison for making and selling meth. Isaac had a history of running away, becoming violent with others, and threatening to kill himself. An aunt and uncle expressed interest in caring for Isaac, but that desire quickly faded as his anger and aggression escalated while he was in their home. They were not able to control his rage, and the safety of their own family became a concern.
At the age of eight, Isaac was brought to CHS. He was very aggressive, violent, socially inept, and could not make a friend. Almost two months passed before Isaac was able to accept any nurturance from staff, and it was nearly a year before his violent tendencies fully subsided. He expressed his anger toward his parents by drawing pictures of them in jail.
Through a nationwide adoption link, a couple from a nearby state expressed an interest in Isaac. A date was set for this couple to come to CHS to meet Isaac. Their intent unknown to Isaac, he was asked to be their tour guide for their visit to CHS, so as not to make Isaac feel uncomfortable or act any different than he normally would.
Over time, Isaac got to know this couple and about their interest in him. Home visits became more and more frequent. They asked Isaac if he would like to become part of their family, and he was excited beyond words! Isaac made a very successful transition into their home, where he lives today. He also enjoys a very close and loving relationship with his new extended family, especially his grandfather.
Connie did her best to make sure dinner was ready and on time, the house was clean and in order, and the kids were quiet and didn't "bug" Dad when he came home. Yet, she rarely escaped the hitting, shoving, and punching "she deserved" for the slightest infraction, like leaving a light on in a room not being used. Connie's children watched their mother endure beatings, and listened to their father constantly degrade and humiliate them all. Nothing they could do was ever good enough. Whenever he was around, they lived in constant fear of not knowing what would happen next.
One Sunday at church, Connie noticed a Children's Inn poster in the women's bathroom. The poster said it was a place that could help victims of domestic violence with crisis shelter, counseling, safety planning, support groups, and more. She committed the address to memory, fearful that if she wrote it down her husband would find it in her purse and demand to know what it was for.
Only two days later, she was grateful that she had memorized the address. That evening after supper, her husband viciously slapped their 11-year old son for leaving his skateboard in the driveway. It was the first time his physical abuse was directed at one of their children. That was the last straw for Connie. When her husband left for work the next morning, she packed a bag for herself and for each of her kids, picked them up from school a little earlier than usual, and made their way to the address she had memorized for Children's Inn.
Jasmine was five years old when her parents divorced. One day, Mom dropped Jasmine off with Dad and never returned to pick her up. Dad noticed that Jasmine was very needy and was overly anxious when he would leave the room. She talked of being locked up for long periods of time when she lived with Mom. Jasmine was aggressive, would break things, scratch her face, and pull out her hair.
At school, she had no friends and fought with other children. She was not able to focus in the classroom, and her disruptive behaviors kept other kids from learning. Dad was desperate to help Jasmine, and the public school she attended referred her to the CHS Day School Program to get her the extra help she needed. She would be in a special education classroom with a lower teacher to student ratio that would address academic, behavioral, socialization, and therapy goals. Both she and her father would also benefit from family therapy.
Due to years of extreme abuse by his birth parents, Michael became an aggressive, angry, and suicidal child. He was admitted to the CHS residential program when he was eight years old. He would cower in the hallways, hide under his desk at school, refuse to participate in activities, and was extremely anxious about doing the simplest of things, like sitting down to eat a meal.
Over time, his intense fears, as well as his aggression, began to subside. While peer relationships did not exist for him when he came to CHS, he developed a core group of friends in his classroom. He was frequently nominated by "kids' vote" as a kind, friendly, and good role model. He began to understand humor and even started telling jokes. He did have a mild set-back when he learned that his parents had given up their parental right to him, but the love and support he received from his CHS friends and staff helped him deal with that loss.
As Michael was nearing the end of his treatment at CHS, it became evident that he was anxious about being in an adoptive family. Though this was still a long-term goal for him, it was decided that it might be best for Michael to spend some time with a CHS foster family to "practice" for what it might be like to be in a family someday when he was ready. Michael also continued as a day student in the CHS school as he made the transition to live with the foster family. He continued to receive guidance and support from a CHS Foster Care Therapist as he processed these life changes.
At Children's Home Child Advocacy Center, the majority of cases pertain to alleged sexual abuse. Some pertain to physical abuse. And in some cases, children have witnessed severe domestic violence or deaths, and they are interviewed to assist law enforcement in criminal prosecution. The following is a cross-section of some of the findings from recent case interviews.
A 6-year-old boy saw his mother stab his father to death. There was apparently a long history of domestic violence in the home.
A 6-year-old girl saw her father shake a baby sibling so hard that the baby now has permanent brain damage.
A grandfather was abusing his 11 and 12-year-old granddaughters. He was charged with several counts of rape.
A 13-year-old girl was on a sleepover at a friend's home, and the father of the friend raped her.
Two pre-teen brothers were being sexually abused by a neighbor man over a period of about four years. The man has been charged and since this has all come out, other victims have some forward, including some young men who are between 18-25 years old.
In several cases, perpetrators were taking pictures and making videos of forced sexual activity by children and then selling them over the internet.
While these stories are difficult to read, it is important to understand they are happening in our communities. These stories help to emphasize the importance of being vigilant and proactive in the prevention of abuse, and when abuse does occur, to build resilience in order to help stop the cycle of abuse from generation to generation.