Children bring joy.
They refresh world-weary adults with their enthusiasm for the commonplace. In caring for them, adults are nurtured. In teaching them, adults learn. Indeed, children are a blessing, but they come with weighty responsibility. In their vulnerability they are absolutely dependent on adults to care for them and direct their growth.
The Salvation Army is deeply conscious of both the blessing and responsibility of children and sponsors hundreds of programs in the U.S. to promote their physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual well-being. It also partners with other local organizations and agencies to ensure safe places for children in need.
One of the primary ways The Salvation Army meets children's needs is by helping parents develop child-care skills. In some communities The Salvation Army addresses prenatal care and childbirth education through residential programs for teen moms, long-term homeless shelters or other programs for low-income families. Consultants model positive interactions and appropriate activities with children, helping parents and children build dynamic relationships that encourage and celebrate developmental milestones. With support, parents are enabled to care for their children in ways they had always wanted to but hadn't known how, perhaps in ways they had never been nurtured themselves. Such programs not only strengthen families but positively affect the community.
One of the most important and common needs The Salvation Army addresses is quality child-care. Provided affordably, often on sliding scales, even families with little income can make sure their children are well cared for. It not only gives children a good start, but help relieve parents' stress. In many communities before- and after-school child-care is valuable for parents working various shifts. Child-care is also a major component in the success of those making the transition from homelessness or welfare dependence to self-sufficiency.
In most areas summer day camps provide safe, fun-filled days for children when school is out. Parents understand and appreciate the program's Christian foundation and the age-appropriate curriculum that promotes healthy behaviors--physically, emotionally and socially.
Before and After School Programs
As children grow, they begin choosing how and where they spend after-school hours. Their choices have increasingly high stakes. Will they learn to read well and think clearly? Who will be their role models? How will they respond to a friend who has joined a gang? Salvation Army after-school activities help youth make the decisions and develop the skills they will need as adults, while growing up in a complicated world. The programs strike a balance between recreation and education. Tutors not only share their knowledge but help kids develop good study habits. Some tutors are older students who know what it takes for academic success; others are adults, professionals, whose encouragement shows kids how high they can aim. In areas with large immigrant populations, tutoring may focus specifically on English literacy.
In addition, local corps and community centers provide weekly programs for children and teens including music, tutoring, character building and Christian education. These programs not only help children grow mentally, they build a strong emotional foundation that will hold firm while weathering the storms of a constantly changing world.
Sadly, there are cases where children cannot live with their parents due to abuse or neglect. The Salvation Army opens its arms wide to protect and heal. In some locations residential programs provide therapy, education, and a stable, happy environment for children as early as infancy. When the children are emotionally ready, potential foster parents are carefully screened. Children continue to receive therapy and foster parents ongoing training and support. With the goal of reuniting families where possible, biological parents undergo counseling and child-care training, and professional case workers oversee visitation with their children.
Other specialized residential programs are geared to troubled adolescents who, in striving to find themselves or reacting to circumstances, have run into trouble at an early age. Many are wards of the state, already having minor offenses with the law. Some have been removed from bad home situations; others have been abandoned. The goal is to work through the problems that have brought them to The Salvation Army's doorstep so that the rest of their life can be better.
Prepared for life
In a world where innocence is leached away at earlier and earlier ages, growing up is harder than ever. Young people must navigate complicated situations and resolve dilemmas largely unknown in former generations. However, The Salvation Army understands that, in spite of the hazards of the day, a happy childhood is still one of the best gifts to share with succeeding generations. The organization helps parents and children make the early years a time of safety, learning and preparation for life.
For more information on children's ministries in your community contact your local Salvation Army. To locate a Salvation Army corps near you, please type in your zip code in the Find a Center Box located at the top left-hand side of this page.