The Children’s Center will help integrate abused children back into families and society.
HOWLAND — Trumbull County Children Services unveiled a new living facility to keep troubled teens near home.
Board directors, along with guest U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, cut the purple-and-white ribbon outside the entrance of the new 20,000-square-foot Children’s Center. A crowd of nearly 75 area residents, including adoptive parents, church members and Trumbull LifeLines employees, gathered Wednesday amid chilly winds to tour the new home.
Before the ceremony, Marcia Tiger, children services executive director, explained how the residence will help integrate abused children and teenagers back into families and society.
She used an example of a child she helped 30 years ago — an 8-year-old client named Luke who’d been severely beaten by his parents.
When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, “[Luke] said he wanted to be a garbage man so he could be surrounded by stinky garbage,” Tiger said, “And no one would want to be around him.”
After four years of care by the county children services, Luke was given a home with relatives.
“We believe in keeping children here until we can find a permanent home for them,” she said, adding that to accomplish a happy household, children must be taught to trust others.
The Children’s Center is a precursor to that loving household, she said.
“I suggest that we dedicate this building to the Lukes of this county,” Tiger said.
Also at the event, board president Dan Letson lent his insight to the project that replaced children services’ old and outdated cottages.
In tearful praise of the county’s progress, Letson — the son of Tom Letson, who preceded him on the board — said the home will allow children to receive help without being shipped out of the county.
“My father would be very proud of the board today,” he said, words shaky with emotion.
Brought in beneath a banner touting, “A Safe Home for Every Child,” guests were treated to music by the Howland High School band, refreshments and the comforts of a warm home.
Accommodating as many as 24 children at a time, the center provides bedrooms, a gymnasium, living quarters and two fully functional classrooms.
The home also is equipped with an independent-living suite, designed for staff to teach emancipating youth how to cook, do laundry and maintain a small apartment.
In collaboration with Valley Counseling Inc., Warren, therapists will meet with the children daily, while the county recruits foster and adoptive families for the recovered residents.
“We believe that keeping those children [with emotional and behavioral needs] close to home is the good and right thing to do,” Tiger said.
“This new facility will ensure that Trumbull County maintains that long-standing philosophy [of] family-centered, neighborhood-based treatment, helping [them] to achieve reunification and permanency more quickly,” she added.