Soft cuddly animals give comfort to children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SOUTH POINT — Edna Elias, of South Point, has 22 stuffed animals at her home. She was preparing for Teddy Bear Sunday at South Point United Methodist Church.

“We gather as many stuffed animals as we possibly can and give them to Child Protective Services,” she said.

A kitty cat, a pig, a giraffe and a number of teddy bears are in her collection of stuffed animals.

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In early summer, the church starts announcing the drive to church members. “Teddy Bear Sunday” is scheduled for this Sunday and everyone brings in stuffed animals to donate.

“It’s just amazing to see them,” Elias said.

Child Protective Services then has the stuffed animals to give to children to help them if they have to be removed from an abusive home. If they have any left over they can use them at Christmas, she said.

“Last year, we had about 500 stuffed animals,” she said. “Some people buy them new and some go around to yard sales, then we wash and sterilize them.

Child Protective Services then picks up the bags of stuffed animals.

Child Protective Services, a unit of Job and Family Services, uses the stuffed animals liberally for visitations and when they work with the children.

“Basically, when we have to take custody of a child, we give them to the kids as something to break down barriers of communication,” said Gene Myers, director, Department of Job and Family Services. “When it comes to visitations, we’ll give them a bear or stuffed animal. It’s helpful for the kids.”

Caseworkers use the stuffed animals throughout the year.

In 2006, Child Protective Services was involved with 2,130 children.

They visit every case they have once a month. In 2006, the agency followed up on 1,083 new referrals.

“It goes through the process depending on the situation, we return them to the home or get permanent custody of the child,” he said. “We use those teddy bears - you can imagine taking a child from their home and it’s something to (help) put the children at ease. We use them liberally.”