Imagine yourself as a child, you’re nine years old. For as long as you can remember it has always been just you and your mother. Life hasn’t always been easy as your mom is gone a lot, working two jobs so that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. In between working, you and your mom cook together, read together, and you help her around the house. One day your mom brings home a man, someone you have never met before. She tells you that this man is her boyfriend, and from that point forward your whole life changes.
From the time your mom introduces you to her new boyfriend, it is no longer just you and her. You are expected to open up your whole world and let a complete stranger into your everyday life. Things seem okay at first. It starts to feel like your family is complete. You start to notice after a few months that mom’s boyfriend likes to drink, and not just one or two. One night after having a few more drinks than usual, there is an argument. Things escalate quickly and the argument becomes physical. You’re scared and confused on why this is happening. You run over to help your mom when you're knocked off your feet and into the wall. Unfortunately, this becomes your new normal, your new reality. Things get worse before they get better, and before you know it you find yourself walking into a place called The Tree House.
You're nervous and you have tons of butterflies in your belly. You enter The Tree House and are greeted by a lady named Paige, the office manager. She smiles widely as she tells you and your mom welcome. You’re guided into a waiting room where there are toys to play with, books to read, and a tv playing Disney shows. When you see all the toys you start to relax and not feel so nervous about being there. A friendly looking man comes into the waiting room by the name of Jason, wearing a blue #GreatChildhoods t-shirt and a big smile. You find out he is going to be talking to you today as your forensic interviewer. He asks if you need a snack or drink and walks you to the forensic interview room. You notice how different this place is. It has bright colors, big flowers on the wall, and colorful pictures. You notice there are no police officers in the room, just you and Jason, which is a huge relief. You have paper and markers on the table and are told they are just for you to use if you want to color, draw, or write. Jason starts asking you questions, but not the questions you expect. He instead asks about you and what your hobbies are; what you did for your last birthday; what you and your friends do. All of which make you smile. You take a deep breath and you start talking about all the things that make you who you are. Then, with more ease than expected, you take a deep breath and start to open up about why you’re there.
When you think about The Tree House, think about how you would feel if you were the child in this scenario. If everything you knew had suddenly turned upside down in your life. Imagine feeling broken and scared as you walk through the doors of The Tree House. Then, things start to feel different, you start to feel better and more at ease. You are able to unload a weight of a scary and difficult time and leave it all there for the helpers to guide you and your mom through this. This is what makes The Tree House such a special place. When you take a minute to walk in the shoes of the children we see, feel what they feel, see what they see, you will understand The Tree House in a whole new light. #GreatChildhoodsBeginWithAllOfUs