A Time for Change

by Kim Hemmert

Sometimes the best thing for one’s health is a fresh start.

When I first met Star, she was participating in a community event hosted by Advocates Against Family Violence (AAFV) in Caldwell.  She was making a sponge soaker and joyfully playing with water balloons. It was a hot day, and the cool water was a welcomed reprieve. She was energetic and excited to participate in water play. You wouldn’t have known she had endured physical and emotional abuse as a child, and financial abuse as an adult, and spent part of her childhood in and out of foster care.

The event featured water balloon volleyball and other water games and crafts. It was a great opportunity for participants and community members to meet new people, build social connections, eat dinner together, and interact with AAFV staff. The event was inclusive for all ages and levels of involvement. Some people were soaked from head to toe, chasing each other around with buckets of water and spraying people with the hose, while others stayed dry. It was fun to watch people encourage each other and work together as a team to win the water toss game.

Star’s life wasn’t always filled with joy.  Her mother was only fourteen years old when Star was born. Her mother was still developing executive brain function when she became a parent. Star experienced abuse by her mother and her mother’s boyfriends. At a very young age, Star became responsible for taking care of her three younger siblings. This pressure and added responsibility negatively impacted her health.

She knew she needed to make a break from her past.  “I want connection and to be healthy,” said Star. Star did not want to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be a teen parent; she wanted to break the cycle of abuse. She decided the best way to do that was to move away from her mother, leave her Texas home, and make a fresh start in Idaho.

She might not have been able to make the break without that one caring adult that research tells us can make all the difference.  A friend of Star’s mother, who was the healthiest person Star knew, was that person. Star could talk about anything and get advice from this friend who helped her find a new path.

Since coming to Idaho, Star has participated in the Boundaries and Healthy Relationships classes offered by AAFV. She has met others who have experienced similar adversity and takes comfort knowing she’s not alone. “Being around them is nice. It gives me hope,” says Star. AAFV does just that, provides hope and builds resilience.

Star has developed supportive relationships with staff and other participants through their programming. AAFV offers safe and stable housing, their monthly events provide opportunities for community engagement, and the classes and case management services address social and emotional development. These are the four building blocks of what we call HOPE or Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences.  HOPE provides a path forward as Star begins her new journey.

Star’s advice to others? “Pay close attention to your health. If it changes or deteriorates, it’s time for change. Take care of yourself.”

Our work at the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund (ICTF) promotes the five Protective Factors: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. These Protective Factors and the building blocks of HOPE promote optimal development so individuals and communities thrive. We are so grateful for Star and her willingness to share her story, and for all the work that Advocates Against Family Violence is doing to bring hope to people in need.

If you would like to know more about programs and organizations founded in HOPE and promote the Protective Factors, or want to get involved, contact the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund.

Advocates Against Family Violence is a current ICTF multiyear and annual grantee recipient.