Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Big Roar for a Small Child ; Stuffed Animal Gives Kids Courage to Talk about Abuse

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Big Roar for a Small Child ; Stuffed Animal Gives Kids Courage to Talk about Abuse

Article excerpt

A small stuffed lion doesn't seem like much, but to a child receiving therapeutic services at Evansville's Lampion Center, it can provide the courage needed to open up about the sexual or physical abuse or neglect they are suffering. "It is very hard for children to disclose these types of things," said child therapist Terra Norman. "We tell the children about how brave they are and give them that lion - the king of the jungle - and stress that they are brave, just like the lion. And it also gives them hope, shows the children that we care about them and want them to be brave and successful."

The Lampion Center, formerly Family and Children's Service, has been serving the Evansville area since 1885 with a mission of "empowering individuals, children and families; lighting their path to stability and hope through counseling, adoption services and community outreach."

The Roary Program ensures each child therapy client receives a stuffed lion during their first session at the Lampion Center. It began as a way to help the children open up to counselors as well as give the center an outlet to raise funds and awareness to what it does.

While Lampion Center has counseling services for people of all ages no matter their ability to pay, what sets the agency apart from others is that its staff is specifically trained to provide counseling to children age 6 and under, Center Development Director Jennifer Childress said. Traditional talk therapy doesn't typically work with young children who have experienced trauma, she said. Some of the issues counselors deal with specific to kids include sleep issues after experiencing a tornado or other traumatic event, separation anxiety, issues in school and physical and sexual abuse.

Childress recalls hearing a child talk about the lion the client received - "I brought my Roary today because Roary makes me brave," the child told a therapist at the Lampion Center, she recalled. "I'm going to be able to tell you what I need to now."

"It takes so much courage and strength from a child to tell a therapist what happened to them," she said. "We are able to work with other agencies to make sure these children get to a safe situation first, but then what needs to happen is to help that child renew their strength and everything else that is required for that kid to be a kid again. And often times during that process we see the child really cling to their Roary. It shows them that the Lampion Center is the right place for them, that we believe in them and their families. It really is a therapeutic tool for us; it empowers the children to tell their story."

The lions are sponsored by donors to the center. For $20, a person's name and contact information is put on a card that is tied to the lion's neck until it is given to a child. Once distributed, the card is collected and Childress writes a note to the sponsor letting them know the lion they donated has found a home. …

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