Providing for Children Survivors During COVID-19

An Interview with Teia Sherrell

The facts are clear: Domestic violence regularly happens parallel to child abuse and neglect.

According to the Domestic Violence Network, children are witnesses in 77% of domestic violence reports. In fact, Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that 60% of children from homes where partner abuse is present are also victims of abuse themselves.

This year, it’s more important than ever to shed light on child abuse. Social distancing recommendations mean that children in abusive situations don’t have their usual safe spaces, like school or daycare.

Our Children’s Services Program

Our Children’s Services coordinator, Teia Sherrell, has worked with Coburn Place for 14 years. She’s responsible for planning and maintaining programming for children who live at Coburn Place, waitlisted children survivors and outreach clients.

When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, normal Children’s Services hours run every Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during school breaks and vacations. That time is filled with activities, mentorship, resources for learning and growth, and one-of-a-kind learning experiences. Each week, we have visitors from enrichment organizations like School on WheelsIndianapolis Art Center and Girls Who Code.

To showcase how Coburn Place has adjusted our resources for children during the pandemic, we spoke with Teia.

Impact of Social Distancing on Coburn Kids 

“In an effort to keep our mission, we must be aware of staying in line with social distancing,” says Teia. “So, at this time, my normal program is modified, but I’m still here to act as a support system for the families. I call them often to check in on them.”

During the pandemic, we are putting together care packages, which include healthy snacks and projects, fun activities and resources for kids. We also attach notes of support on peoples’ doors that include lists of online resources and science activities.

“It’s my responsibility to plan and implement seasonal activities, like spring camp and summer camp,” Teia says. “But because of recent health concerns, we’ve had to cancel our spring break trip.” So, in lieu of spring break activities, we passed out pinwheels and coloring sheets to everyone, giving everyone a bit of color to add to their front doors. These pinwheels serve double duty, bringing awareness to child abuse prevention and empowering the children of Coburn Place.

Teia’s Favorite Children’s Success Story

A few years ago, a young lady arrived at Coburn Place. She was about seven or eight at the time, and she was diagnosed as autistic. And her diagnosis came along with some challenges as to how we could provide her with the enrichment she needed.

When she started coming to our daily programs, she’d just do a little bit of an activity, and then almost immediately go off across the room to read a book, which was her favorite thing to do. In the beginning, she could only participate for 10 minutes before retreating to her book. But within six months, she was there for 45 minutes. And that 45 minutes moved to a few hours of focused work. She had gradually become more comfortable with the program and coordinators. It was amazing to witness – not only for her but for us as well.

She started to become more and more interested in doing artwork. She created some beautiful artwork. Eventually, she was participating in every activity, every subject.

Before she and her family moved on from Coburn Place, she was recognized for her artwork during a presentation at the Indianapolis Art Center, where she was named the art student of the year. She was very happy.

The Future of the Children’s Services Program

Teia and Coburn Place Child Advocate Ruth Davis are looking forward to a bright future for Children’s Services. “We are very optimistic that this is just a moment in time and we’re going to get back to business soon,” Teia says. “We just may have to tweak a few things because of social distancing since I think it is going to be the new norm for society for quite some time.”

Coburn Place works with hundreds of children at a time, moving them – with their survivor parent or guardian – to stable housing and empowering them to just be kids. Our Children’s Services include plenty of play spaces, therapy, support groups, homework help and tutoring, healthy relationship classes, after-school programs, and field trips. We don’t just want to stop the cycle of abuse – we want these kids to thrive.

Did you know all Indiana adults are mandated reporters? Check on the at-risk children in your life. To report child abuse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call (800) 800-5556. Find out more about how you can support the Children’s Services Program at Coburn Place.