An Interview With Linda Ranson Jacobs.
Over 1.25 million children in the United States experience the devastation of their parents’ divorce each year, and over 19 million children live in a single parent home. To address this issue of “children of divorce” we met with Linda Ranson Jacobs, Director of Children’s Ministries at Church Initiative in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Linda is also the Director of the DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) project, a 13-week kit designed to help churches bring hope and help to children of divorce.
Linda, tell us about the issue of “children of divorce.”
Children of divorce is the new paradigm in schools, churches, and other social programs. They have been on the increase since the 70s and for the most part have been grossly neglected. Many of the social problems we face in our world today such as increased substance use by teens, early teen pregnancy, mental health disorders, and teen suicides are the result of divorce. Very few people and organizations realize this.
How long have you been studying the issue of children of divorce?
Since 1985 when I went through a divorce and could find no help for my own children.
Can you give an example or two of how you have seen children affected by divorce?
How many examples do you want? There are so many stories. I watched a 15-month-old toddler go into depression after her Dad broke into their home and took everything in the house except the furniture in the children’s room. It broke my heart to watch a 15-month-old be so sad.
Then there is the story of an abandoned five-year-old child who was in my child care. He was from a divorced situation and had never seen his father. This child had many, many behavior problems, so many that he had been “kicked out” of every other child care. He was such a bright little boy. He craved attention from adults. He would melt into my arms when I hugged him.
Our child care was his security. We became his home. His mother trusted us enough that she figured we would provide for him and take care of him after she was gone. After he was placed in child protective custody, he continued to attend our child care. Every morning he would come into my office and either I or my Director would take a few minutes to rock him in the rocking chairs in my office. His counselor said we were the first people to bond with him.
You direct the project called DivorceCare for Kids. What is this?
DivorceCare for Kids, or DC4K for short, is a project designed to bring restoration, hope, and help for children of divorce between the ages of 5 and 12. It consists of a 13-week kit for leaders of churches to use to help the child of divorce.
Essentially this project will be an avenue of healing for children of divorce. DC4K will introduce children to the grieving brought on by the loss of an intact family. It will explore ways to rebuild their family unit and make them aware that people live in all kinds of families and that their situation is not unique. It will continually tell them they are worthy of God’s love. It will give them tools to develop healthier relationships within their own families. They will also have opportunities to learn how to handle their anger and their sadness. It will show them how to relieve some of the stress in their lives and move forward in their world.
You must be very excited about this project.
I’m excited because I know that this program will change lives and I don’t mean just for the short 13-week class, but for years to come. It will help children feel safe in their world. It will dispel many myths that children have about divorce. It will be a chance for them to talk with adults who are not connected to their family’s divorce. Children will be coming to a nonthreatening place-a church.
Obviously, churches that want to help children of divorce need to get DC4K. But are there any other steps churches can take to help children of divorce?
Yes, there are. First, be there! Be there! Be there! Give the children unconditional love. Provide safe places for them and minister to their hearts.
Second, provide opportunities for the elementary and teenage children to earn money for various church activities. They don’t want to be enabled; they want to be able to pay their way.
Third, develop foster grandparent programs. Many grandparents don’t have access to their grandchildren, and many of these children don’t live close to their own grandparents. Or the families are so estranged that the child doesn’t get to be around their grandparents.
Fourth, provide mentors or big brothers and sisters for the child of divorce. This could also be done in pairing up the single parent family with a two-parent family so the child of divorce can be exposed to God’s design for a healthy Christian marriage. If a child is raised in a single parent family, how will they learn how to be married?
Fifth, provide single parenting classes so parents can learn how to be a good single parent.
Sixth, send the leaders of children to their homes to visit them.
Finally, realize these children have no control over their schedules and church attendance. Don’t penalize them if they can’t attend a weekly Bible study or they haven’t memorized a passage of Scripture. It could be that they were at the other parent’s home all week and didn’t have access to the materials.
Linda, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
In the Old Testament the Lord sent prophets to bind up the brokenhearted. In the New Testament the Lord sent His very own Son to heal the brokenhearted. After Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, then isn’t it our responsibility as “the church” to bind up the brokenhearted? Shouldn’t we bestow on these children the crown of beauty? Isn’t it our duty to offer them the oil of gladness? To let them wear the garment of praise instead of harboring a spirit of despair?
To contact Linda email her at LJacobs@churchinitiative.org.
DivorceCare for Kids will be released in Spring of 2004. Church Initiative is currently accepting orders for this 13-week kit. To order this kit or to find out more information about DivorceCare for Kids, call 1-800-395-5755 or go to www.divorcecare.org.
Copyright © 2003 by the author and/or CaringChurches.com and The Church Initiative, Inc. unless noted otherwise in the text of the article above. Used with permission.