Teaching a Better Way by Experiencing a Better Way

Child Abuse Statistics:

  • More than 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse.
  • Between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
  • Over 80% of child abuse fatalities are under the age of four.
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
  • A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.

  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
  • In NC, almost 25% of children live in poverty and 12% of those live in extreme poverty.
  • One in four youth will experience a potentially traumatic exposure to abuse, and many are multiple or prolonged.
  • Here in NC, more than 134,000 children were referred to local Department of Social Service agencies for possible abuse and neglect during fiscal year 2011-2012.

John SiverlingThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the toll on children who are abused or neglected continues long after they have endured that abuse. The impact of child abuse, whether physical, psychological, sexual, emotional or neglect, is far-reaching and often repeats across generations, as yesterday’s impacted children become tomorrow’s parents and caregivers.
Imagine being put in the driver’s seat of a car, having never seen or been in a car, and being expected to safely navigate that vehicle through Atlanta or another large city. That is what knowing how to raise a child or build a healthy family is for many people. They have never seen or experienced a good example of parenting and have no frame of reference for what a good family dynamic looks like. They only know what they experienced, and if that happened to be extremely dysfunctional in some way, then the possibility that the cycle will be repeated is very high.

There is also an economic impact in terms of medical attention, mental health services, the child welfare system and law enforcement. Tackling abuse and neglect cost more than $80 billion nationwide last year. In NC, the estimate was $2 billion. So there is a financial imperative as well as the moral and compassionate ones, to aggressively ensure that all of our children are effectively protected from harm.
Establishing effective interventions before it is carried into another generation is a priority, if we want to stop the cycle. It has its challenges due to their diverse histories, varied experiences, and the way their particular personality and stage of development mixes with the developmental influences which shape them. In addition, they are swirling in a wide range of systems within which they seek care. As a society, we have a responsibility to intervene in this epidemic and help those who are unable to help themselves.

That is exactly what John and Toni Siverling have been doing for fourteen years now. They help by loving one child at a time and demonstrating that adults can be trusted to love them in an appropriate and nurturing manner.

John is Commercial Service Manager in our Heating and Cooling division. He and his wife, Toni, have been married for 26 years, and have a grown son and daughter (now an investigator for DSS, Department of Social Services). In addition, they have raised more than 39 more children, ages two to eighteen! How is that possible? The Siverlings moved from Atlanta in 2000 and were introduced to Broyhill Baptist Children’s Home, in Clyde, NC. They began inviting resident children into their home for weekends and holidays, in order to give them a sense of family. Soon, they decided to become more involved by becoming foster parents. John said, “We had always tried to help kids in our neighborhood who needed things, and foster care was a natural transition for us.”

Not only did they open their home and give of their time for this worthy cause, they went a step further and became certified by the state for the therapeutic foster care. Therapeutic foster care is specialized to kids who have special needs requiring therapy. In nine out of ten cases, these kids have been in perpetual abuse situations. The Siverlings go to therapy with each of them, meet with case workers and biological parents, set boundaries in their home, teach them how to interact with others and, mostly, just love them like no one ever has before.

John says he relates to these kids and teens because he came from a broken home, and his family moved quite a bit. “It was difficult to set down any roots or make friends when we were constantly moving. It made me a bit of a loner,” he said. He went on to say his wife, Toni, had a storybook upbringing and knew what a healthy family should look like. The combination of their backgrounds and their love and compassion formed a dynamic duo that has been able to make a real difference. John said, “Together, we can show them love and how a home is supposed to be…a better way. It takes a while to build trust, but it is well worth it.”
Several of their former foster children have kept in touch with the Siverlings through the years. “There are definitely heartaches, but mostly rewards. It still touches me when they come back and thank us, and we see that they are not perpetuating the abuse cycle,” John commented.

The Siverlings work through an organization called Grandfather Home in Waynesville. It is a Christian organization and acts as a liaison between DSS and foster parents. When interviewing John, I asked what he would most like to get across to the MB HAYNES family and he said, “We need some younger families to step up and get involved in foster care. The need is great, and we simply need more people to get involved.”
If you are interested in making a positive difference for a child, fostering is a wonderful avenue to take. According to John, “It will not only enrich their lives, but yours, too.” For more information on becoming a foster parent go to www.grandfatherhome.org.

The MB HAYNES family says thanks to John and Toni for your compassion, empathy and generosity of time, resources and spirit. You are truly HAYNES Heroes in the Community!