Julie Thornton-Adams, president of the Orange County chapter of Childhelp, reached out to me with serious concerns about the safety of children in potentially abusive home environments during this stressful COVID-19 lockdown.
Childhelp runs a hotline, not government-funded, that serves the U.S. and Canada. It’s available to anyone in need of help in an abusive situation involving a child; they take calls from both children and adults.
Thornton-Adams shared one such call from a young girl.
“My school is closed. Where do I go to be safe?” she asked. “School was my one safe place and I have nowhere else to turn.”
According to Thornton-Adams, this “is typical of the calls that we are receiving and fortunately we were able to get this girl the help she needed.”
Over the last 60 days, Childhelp’s hotline calls are up some 33% over the same period last year. Even more alarming, the hotline implemented a texting alternative, a preferred method of communication for young people, and it has received overwhelming use since it began last year.
Given the fact that the hotline outreach has no government support, donor dollars are crucial to staff the service.
Thornton-Adams has joined with O.C. Childhelp donors, including the founding member and vice president of the National Childhelp Board, Patti Edwards, as well as Linda Burns, Gina Van Ocker, Carol Packard, Kristen James, Shan Vincent, Diana Miner and Christine Johnson, to rally U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), seeking government assistance protecting children at risk especially in these uncharted times. Rouda successfully championed funding in support of the domestic violence hotline.
Like most O.C. nonprofits aiding children and families, Childhelp, one of the largest, struggles. Most fundraising events have been either cancelled or postponed.
Childhelp’s major annual spring fashion luncheon, sponsored by South Coast Plaza, unfolded the day before the official lockdown took place, sending organizers and patrons scrambling, resulting in a mostly no-show crowd for what is one of the most-attended fashion show charity fundraisers of the year.
Childhelp’s National Day of Hope in Washington, D.C., has been cancelled. The annual Rich Saul Memorial Golf Classic set for this month has been moved to Oct. 5 at Pelican Hill, assuming it is feasible. Thornton-Adams reports that Childhelp’s fall gala, “Beach Ball,” is still on the books for Oct. 24 at the Paséa Hotel & Resort.
“We remain optimistic,” she said.
Meanwhile the work goes on, COVID-19 or not. Three Childhelp group homes in Costa Mesa must be supported.
Childhelp Foster/Adoption Services and the Childhelp Merv Griffin residential Treatment Village in Beaumont, which serves O.C. youth, requires major ongoing financial support.
All this in addition to finding the money to fund the national hotline.
Fortunately, local generosity remains steadfast. Private sector donors in O.C., including dedicated Newport-Mesa citizens like California Sens. Thomas Umberg, Christine Bren, Cleo Bluth, Christopher Doherty, Barbara Ganahl, Susan Hill, Beverly Cohen, Sue Hook and Janet Ronnenberg are making a difference.
Also front and center are major supporters Iris Ashury, Jen Kite, Maggie Thrasher, Mary Schulz, Myrna Levy, Tami Smith, Jeannie Hidley, Catherine Caporaso, Kelly Haugen and Diana Garza.
To learn more, go to www.childhelp.org.