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If you didn't already know, I am a child abuse investigator. Family members, community members, teachers, medical professionals, and countless other people report via a hotline when they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. My job is to follow up on those reports, visit the children, the caregivers, other people familiar with the family, collect medical records, speak with teachers, and gather any other information which can help me determine if a child is a victim of abuse or neglect.

By far the most frequent form of child abuse is neglect. Dirty homes, lack of food, caregiver/parent substance abuse, failure to send the child to school (or effectively home school), and many other factors could be considered neglect. In most cases children are not removed from the home, but programs and services are put in place to help correct the conditions. Child Welfare's goal is to keep a family in tact, not to remove children from the home.


Abuse may be physical (Beating, hitting, slapping, confinement, etc), emotional (verbal abuse, isolation, etc.), and sexual abuse (molesting, touching, exposure to adult sexuality, etc.). Abuse is not always obvious, but you can be sure if one type of abuse is noticeable, there is most likely other types of abuse going on as well. Again, Child Welfare's goal is not to remove children from their home, but with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, removal is not uncommon.

I often hear the same concerns from folks who are reluctant to disclose knowledge of abuse or neglect. Those concerns are the children aren't really being mistreated that badly, they don't believe the abuse or neglect to be significant enough to have to report, they fear becoming involved, or they don't trust government enough to involve them in protecting a child.

I want to help reassure those of you out there who have concerns about or knowledge of a child being abused or neglected you may remain anonymous. We do not disclose who makes the reports of abuse or neglect. I also want to reassure you we are highly trained in the identification of abuse or neglect. This is not the type of job where you get hired on Thursday and are out knocking on doors on the following Monday. I myself, in addition to college degrees and 17 years of teaching experience, have close to 300 hours of additional training in the identification of abuse and neglect.

So, that being said, here are some of the signs of abuse and neglect that should raise red flags for you:
  • Marks or bruises from being struck. Bruises should NEVER been seen on a child who is immobile. Until a child starts to walk (holding onto objects while learning to walk counts), children should never have bruises. Children who are spanked for discipline do not get marks or bruises. Marks or bruises are left on children when they are spanked or struck out of anger. Spanking your children is not illegal, but a spanking should never leave an injury. Discipline should be reasonable and age appropriate. I have seen autopsy photos of a 5 week old baby who was spanked. 5 week old babies do nothing that would warrant a spanking.
  • Signs of neglect include dirty, malodorous children. Babies with dirt under their fingernails and around the creases in their neck. Severe diaper rash. Listless babies. Babies whose eyes are open, but appear vacant. Babies being fed whole milk instead of formula. Children who are not being fed (underweight, begging food, etc.) Young or small children outside unsupervised. Children who cry for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. Small children left home unsupervised.  Children who are ill, but not being seen by medical professionals. 
  • Significant injuries of unexplained origin or explanations that don't make sense/explain the injury. If you see a child with an injury and are offered an explanation that does not seem reasonable, ask more questions. Be especially concerned if the child is not yet verbal and/or the injuries are blamed on siblings who are not verbal as well. 
  • Burns of any kind. 
  • If a child appears fearful of a parent or caregiver, pay attention. One of the most common phrases we hear when responding to allegations of abuse or neglect is, "The child was being cared for by mother's boyfriend when the injury occurred." Also don't assume because Susie is a great person, she is above getting angry or frustrated enough to lash out on her child. Remember, child abuse knows no economic status. Rich people abuse children too. Just because a child lives in a nice home and the parent has a higher economic status does not mean they are immune to being abuse. 
  • Target children are something child welfare workers encounter with terrible frequency. These "targets" are the children who are reported to always be in trouble, always be doing something wrong, and are often described in terms of behaviors that would be intentional (He cries on purpose and knows it makes me mad. He pees his pants just to irritate me. She wets the bed just to make more work for me. etc.) Often target children are the children from previous relationships. Siblings and others in the home will often participate in the abuse as well. Sadly all too often, if the target child is removed from the family unit or dies, the abuse will move on to one of the other children. 

There are many, many ways children are abused and neglected (too much to really go into here in this brief blog post), but the key to getting these children (and families) help is by reporting suspected abuse or neglect to your local child abuse hotline.  It is important to remember most states have laws that state if you suspect abuse or neglect, it is a crime to fail to report it. Every state has a hotline and you can remain anonymous.

The hotline phone number for Oklahoma is 1-800-522-3511. If you are located in other states you can phone the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. If you are a parent or caregiver who needs help, reach out to your local Human Services for assistance or referrals for help.

Intervening in abuse or neglect is everyone's responsibility. You could help save a child's life.
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Last summer I went to visit my folks who reside in Arizona. Notice the word summer. Ugh, it was hot! Ok, that was to be expected. Anyway, knowing we would be indoors for most of my visit, my mother came up with this fun project to keep us occupied.

Her idea came from this pattern she found on Amazon:

Cut N Stitch Wreath Pattern 

She then found these easy, pre cut squares of foam. Sold in a pack of 12 6x6 inch squares, one side already had iron on interfacing which makes creating this wreath so easy: 

Bosal In-R-Foam 6x6 One Sided Fusable Squares
Now, she had only ordered two packs of these squares, one for her and one for me, but we got really into making these and decided to try to make our own by purchasing foam by the yard and iron on interfacing since the pre cut squares were not available at our local fabric and craft stores. It might sound like the way to go in a pinch, but I will explain further on why this didn't work as we expected. So, my advice is order the foam pre cut with the iron on interfacing on one side already.

The next step is to cut the fabric. For this project you can choose two or three fabrics based on your design idea. I chose to use three fabrics. I played around with them prior to cutting using the photo on the pattern. This helped me decide which fabrics would be the back, front, and middle square. Using the instructions I cut the squares of fabric. Two of the fabrics are cut to 6.5" and one of the fabric is cut to 5.5". 


This is the fabric my mother chose for her wreath. Fall appropriate, no?
She chose to go with two fabrics. 
Once you have all your fabrics cut, it is time to start sewing. Place the two of the 6.5" squares of fabric right side together. Center them on the side of the foam squares that have NO interfacing. Sew the seam around the foam square. Carefully cut an X in the center of ONE of the squares, the one not touching the foam. Now Carefully turn the square right sides out through the hole the X created. If you did this correctly, you will end up with the X side on the interfaced side and the foam sandwiched inside. 

Next, layer on one of the 5.5" squares you cut and iron the square so the X is as closed as it can be and the smaller square conceals it. Using a decorative stitch, stitch down the edges of the 5.5" square. Voila! You have a square finished. Do this 11 more times.

Using a hard piece of plastic or a piece of cardboard, make yourself a template of the stitching line pattern. I made mine out of a piece of stencil plastic. Mine looked like this: 

Stencil plastic was used to make my stitching guide. 
Side note: Have you tried those clips you can see in the picture above? OMG, my mother gave me a bag for Christmas and I don't think I will ever use pins again! They are super easy to use and hold tight without poking your fingers or getting lost in the carpet only to be found later when you have bare feet. They looks like this: 

You can get a bag here.

Ok, back to the sewing. Use the guide to determine where to sew your squares together. You must be consistent in order for the circle to be accurate and lay right.


Here you can see how the squares are lined up and sewn together. This was my fun Halloween wreath. Once all the squares are sewn together you will find a circle has formed. It should look something like this: 

Wreath once squares are connected
At this point, you begin sewing the points together. First you want to hand stitch them like this: 

Sew the points together. 
Next, I chose to add a little button as an embellishment. You don't have to, but I thought it turned out nicer, looking a little more finished. Don't you agree? 

Adding a little embellishment for extra pizzazz.
Once you have them all sewn together you can add a hanger to the back to hang the wreath on a door, or, as I chose, make it a centerpiece for your table. The pattern shows additional bows and decorations for a door wreath. I put a candy bowl in the center of mine.  

Finished Wreath
So there you have it. Easy as pie for just about any skill level. 

**Oh, remember how I said I would tell you the problem with cutting your own foam? Ya, well I cut mine a little smaller for the Halloween wreath without considering I would need more squares to make a circle that would lay flat. My Halloween wreath does not lay flat. As a result, I stuck a jar shaped like a pumpkin full of candy in the middle to hold it down, but in hindsight I should have cut more squares. 

Notice how this one does not lay flat? 
Happy sewing! If you give this fun project a try, be sure to post a picture in the comments below!

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December presented me with an unprecedented opportunity - a 9 day Western Caribbean Cruise!!

Let me fill you in since it has been a bit since I have updated the blog. I started dating a very nice man in the autumn of 2017. Of course the topic of Tiny House Homestead came up which inevitably led to the topic of my bucket list. Intrigued, my boyfriend who I shall call Professor to keep his identity private, asked what else was on my bucket list. Of course I rattled off a list a mile long, but on that list was travel to other countries which would require me to use a Passport, taking a cruise, and visiting New Orleans.

Professor enjoys travel and travels frequently. He has traveled to many of the places I wished to travel and has yet to travel to some of the other places I wish to visit. Jumping into action, Professor booked us a cruise to the Western Caribbean which left from the Port of New Orleans. I was speechless. What an opportunity!

December 12th we flew to New Orleans and stayed the night in a LaQuinta Hotel close to the airport in Kenner, LA. It was a nice enough hotel, but it could have been a dive and we wouldn't have cared because we were so tired from traveling.  Early the next morning we dodged the traffic and ran across the road to a small restaurant for breakfast. Fanny's was fantastic! The food was delicious and the waitress was delightful. If you get a chance, stop in for breakfast, you won't be disappointed.

With our bellies full, we trotted back across the street to catch a shuttle to the Port of New Orleans. We shared the shuttle with another couple who were taking the same cruise. They were from Canada and cruising was their retirement lifestyle. That is certainly something to aspire to!


We were scheduled for a 2 - 2:30 pm embarkation, so we got drinks and sat outside people watching and observing all the luggage being loaded into the ship. Our cruise was with Norwegian Cruise Lines and our ship was the Pearl. Being next to such a behemoth of a ship really is incredible. I know there are bigger ships out there, but the experience was something else. I had to use panorama settings on my camera just to try to get the ship in one picture!


Finally it was our time to go through customs and I pulled my passport out with pride. I was worried when I sent for my passport in November that I may not have had enough time for it to be processed before the cruise. I was elated when I found it in my mailbox just two weeks later. Now I was was finally able to cross off getting a passport AND using my passport off my bucket list.

We boarded the ship and found our cabin. After living so long in a tiny house, the small cabin did not seem small at all. The cabinetry and storage was clearly well thought out. After dropping off our carry on items, we headed down to our safety drill.

Breaking in my unlimited drink pass, I stopped at a bar and ordered a Bloody Mary to enjoy as we pulled out of port. Professor and I headed off to the deck which would allow us to watch the ship cast off, however cast off was delayed and we got bored. Heading inside we found a buffet and seating located on the back of the ship. We watched the sunset as we pulled out of the Port of New Orleans and traveled down the mighty Mississippi River.



Follow along on part 2
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Life continues to be A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!


Check out this episode!

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