“It is impossible to look in the eyes of a child in need and do nothing.”
Yvonne Fedderson, Co-founder, President and Vice Chairman, Childhelp
It is amazing to imagine that some 60 years ago two Hollywood actresses, with courage and hope in their hearts, championed a national response to child abuse.
Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson have spent a lifetime of professional work building Childhelp from the ground up. And with a network of helping hands advocating for children across the country, miracles have taken place, children rescued, and young lives forever changed – 10 million young lives, to be exact.
Answering the call: One-on-one with “Kate”
“Kate” (whose name we changed for privacy) is a crisis counselor for the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. We sat down with her and asked her some straightforward questions. She spoke candidly about the struggles of speaking day in and day out with people who are in distress; her eye-opening experience with self-awareness; and how she’s developed boundaries to survive in the field.
Childhelp: What brought you to Childhelp?
Kate: I was a counselor for both kids and to families, a career field I chose long ago that has always brought me a sort of life-fulfilling satisfaction. When I started my family, spending time away from them became this internal struggle. I had heard of Childhelp and read its story – how the organization began, how it had grown into a national initiative, and of course, about the Founders, Sara and Yvonne. I loved their mission; I loved what they stood for, and I knew it was a perfect fit. The Childhelp National Abuse Hotline is a 24/7/365 hotline that easily offered me the opportunity to continue to do what I love in the evenings and still be able to spend quality time with my family during the day. It really was a perfect fit!
CH: What keeps you at Childhelp?
Kate: Just knowing I’m helping people! Knowing I’m helping someone get to the next steps, that I’m helping them figure it all out and feel good about where and what they should do brings an enormous sense of strength – to the caller and me.
I receive a variety of calls – they can be from an adult survivor or a mom at the end of her rope – and I can take my time with the caller, help them through to those next steps. When someone calls the hotline, they are not “filing a report” like they would if they called the Department of Child Safety (DCS). I don’t rush them through the call, and I don’t worry about “getting to the next call.” We take our time. We listen. And we give them the resources, as well as hope, and that life can be better and safer starting from this moment.
CH: What is the most enjoyable part of your day?
Kate: My joy comes from the “thank you” from the caller at the end of our conversation. When the caller thanks me, it means he or she has the resources they need; their questions are answered, they feel good about any next steps, and they know that they can call back again, as many times as they need or want. They’re ready to move forward.
CH: What is the one thing you struggle with the most in your position at Childhelp?
Kate: Not knowing the outcome. Is this child okay now?
Some callers call back with an update, but most don’t. Some adult survivors have called back and said I don’t know what I would have done without your hotline. But the callers that I never hear back from… well, I always pray for them.
CH: How do you separate work and home?
Kate: This has taken some practice. I used to take it home with me. As counselors, we talk with each other. We share our frustrations – almost like therapy – but we share our tough calls so that we can leave it in the office. We’re always helping each other through.
CH: Do you have a message you want to give to parents or children? To the next caller?
Kate: I do. We are a confidential hotline. Don’t hesitate to call. People like confidentiality. A lot of relief can come just from making a call. Call with questions – any questions. Let us help you. It’s our mission here at Childhelp to advocate for you, to help you, and to be here for you.
Childhelp focuses efforts on advocacy, prevention, intervention, treatment and community outreach. Empowered and combined, Childhelp has the power to change the trajectory of the history for the better. To learn about the many ways you can get involved with Childhelp and join the cause, start here.