Posted: October 12, 2020

Staff, I hope you’re doing well as we look forward to the week ahead.  We are very fortunate in Camas to have a strong city/school partnership.  We meet monthly to talk about our community and how we can better serve together.  Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch city staff in action and see the care they have for the community.  Whether through the Parks Department, Mayor’s office, Library, City Council, Public Works, Planning & Engineering, Fire or Police departments examples of partnerships abound.  Last week, I received an email from Chief Lackey that demonstrates the long history and importance of these partnerships.  This week’s HOPE & JOY comes from Chief Lackey. 🙂

Something happened this past week that is powerful, and I wanted to share it with you, and the school staff.  There is a message here for your staff, and mine, that what we do every day – perhaps those things that we even take for granted as to just “part of the job” often can turn out to be life-changing moments for those involved.  Such is the case in this matter, where our people’s actions rescued two small children from the horror of an abusive home.  Here is what happened:

I received an email that popped up on my computer about a week ago from someone who asked if they could come in and drop off some cookies and a thank you note for the police.  In the email, the individual disclosed that 30 years ago he and his young sister were “rescued” from an abusive home by the police and the anniversary of that event was October 1, 2020.  The person told me that their lives were forever changed for the better by what the police had done for them and they never forgot how they felt when the officers showed up to take them into protective custody.  The person said they wanted to recognize the 30 year anniversary of being “saved” and said they would drop in on October 1.  Because he had given me his name, I was able to locate old records to verify that we did indeed take two children into protective custody on October 1, 1990.  The officers responded to Dorothy Fox Elementary where the event unfolded.  Ultimately, the children were transferred over to CPS and placed into foster care outside of the Camas area. 

Sure enough, yesterday we received a visit by the two individuals, now adults, of course, bringing in cookies and a thank you letter.  On our side, we were able to identify the police officers who handled this, both of whom have since retired from the force.  On your side, I’m sure the same is true, that the staff who handled it and who called the police are likely also retired.  But the reason I write you this morning is that what happened 30 years ago is as much relevant today as it was back then.  The classroom teacher or the Principal is often the only safe place where a child feels that they can get help when being subjected to abuse at home.  They are the ones who notice the marks, bruises, or changes in behavior, dress, or hygiene.  They are the ones who may have the ability to get a child to open up about the truth when the abuser has coached them to lie about what happened.  They are the ones most likely to sound the alarm so that the police and the state services might be alerted to the matter to step in and bring the abuse to a stop.  So, although these two people came in yesterday to thank the Camas Police, the truth of the matter is that the staff at Dorothy Fox was just as responsible for saving these two kids 30 years ago.  So, I now thank them on behalf of these two individuals, the Camas Police Department, and the entire Community.  Jeff, the message here is powerful – your staff’s actions saved two kids.  Can you think of anything more important?  The problem is that our collective staffs can start to look at stuff like this as just “what I did today” and not recognize the significance.  I think for your people, and our officers, it was “what they did that day” 30 years ago.  But, for the two people I spoke with yesterday, it was the day they said their life was saved.  For them, it is the anniversary that they were saved from the horror of abuse. 

There is a good ending to this story.  The man and woman told me that they went into the foster care system after that day and were never returned to the parental home.  They were able to stay close, although they were placed in different foster homes outside of the local area.  There are many parts of their story of what happened to them as small children that they say they still don’t want to talk about, and has had many negative effects on them as they grew up, became adults, and had their own families.  But now, life is good for them and they are happy.  They both indicate that the scars that they got as small kids, from the abuse, are things they don’t think they can ever fully get over.  But, they said they forge ahead to be better parents themselves and better grandparents.  As they said, they were lucky, “they got saved.” 

These two people encouraged me to share their story with my officers so if perhaps they respond in the future to other children who are abuse victims, the officers will know how important it is for them to step in and take action to protect the children. I now ask you to also share this story with your staff, with the same intent.  Neither the school system nor the police department can protect children from abuse alone.  But when we work collectively, we can be a powerful force to save kids.  30 years ago, some of our people did just that – they saved two kids.  As we think about this story, let us be prepared to make a difference in the next child’s life that might find themselves in this terrible position.  It all starts with the trusted classroom teacher and school staff!

Thanks to Chief Lackey for sharing this story.  We recognize that seeing our students remotely today is a little different.  There are new ways of checking in and supporting their needs.  Thank you for your continued effort to make sure our students feel welcomed and loved.

Let’s have a great week!