Zach’s red coat clung to his arms as he raced through the crowded room. His six- year old body wove effortlessly through the other students gathered for an after school program. His sneakers screeched to a stop abruptly in front of his favorite program volunteer. Nose running, lips covered in chips, Zach looked up with a grin, evidence of his secret. He said, “I didn’t go to school today.” I crouched down beside Zach.“You didn’t?” I questioned. “Why not?”
“I can’t tell you. It’s a secret,” he whispered.
“But I really wanted to hear your story,” I interjected..”
“Well, I guess I could tell you,” Zach paused before answering,“I was suspended.”
“Oh, I’m sorry for that.Are you ok?” I asked.
“A boy was cussing and bullying me, so I hit him. I am suspended, because they said I have anger problems,” Zach stated.The six-year old innocence in his voice was replaced with defeat.
“Who said you have anger problems? You were bullied, and didn’t know how else to protect yourself. It sounds like you were scared, not angry.”
“Really scared,” he whispered.
“Do you want to talk about better ways to handle bullies? Your way didn’t work out, but I know a way that might,” I offered.
Zach and I brainstormed great ways to handle a bully (several involved super powers.) In the short time we talked Zach’s demeanor changed, and he skipped away playfully.
Program volunteers gathered together at the end of the day and shared their experiences. When one of the organization’s staff said her picture of the day was Zach, I smiled.
This is a typical Back2Back Ministries experience. At any site around the world, you could meet a “Zach” who has experienced trauma and is using behavior as his voice. You will also meet Trauma Competent Back2Back staff, who want to help children navigate toward sustainability.
What makes Zach’s story unique is where it took place: Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 2017, Back2Back leadership began researching the viability of implementing Back2Back’s best practices in the United States. Starting with Cincinnati, we found Back2Back’s resources welcome additions to what was already taking place.
The need is great. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, Cincinnati holds the second highest child poverty rate in the country, and the number of youth entering the foster care system is at an all-time high. There are amazing organizations currently working toward sustainability for each child, but there aren’t enough resources to meet the need.
Back2Back Cincinnati launched in early 2018 after discussion with multiple organizations and key individuals. The vision is to navigate vulnerable children, teens, and families in Cincinnati toward restoration, dependency on Jesus, interdependence within community, and sustainable economic independence.
The Back2Back team will be the infrastructure of this vision through mentoring and training relationships. In this first phase of launching a stateside site,we are building the team and deepening partnerships with like-minded organizations. Staff is forming around five strategic areasincluding programs and partnerships, education, social work, coaching, and youth development programming. We are hiring, training, and welcoming staff for each of these roles, and investing in local partnerships as we deepen holistic care for Cincinnati’s most vulnerable children.
Please join Back2Back in prayer as we move toward this new adventure. The goal remains the same whether abroad or in our very own city, we will serve the vulnerable in the name of Jesus, until every child is known and loved.