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Anthony Bedford said his time spent as a young child at Our Little Haven “saved my life, and my faith carried me on to where I am today. My scars have healed in (their) own way. Part of that process, my story, led me into what I’m doing for a living today, which is working with abused and neglected children.” Bedford, now a a foster family case worker for Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri, talked with his supervisor, Jennifer Abernathy.
Anthony Bedford said his time spent as a young child at Our Little Haven “saved my life, and my faith carried me on to where I am today. My scars have healed in (their) own way. Part of that process, my story, led me into what I’m doing for a living today, which is working with abused and neglected children.” Bedford, now a a foster family case worker for Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri, talked with his supervisor, Jennifer Abernathy.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Our Little Haven uses early intervention to help children

Anthony Bedford was born addicted to drugs. His mother abandoned him at the hospital.

Bedford was among the first children helped by Our Little Haven when it opened in 1993. The program had a residential component then, and Bedford lived there a couple years before being adopted by his aunt.

He’s kept in touch with Our Little Haven and its founders, Scott and Kathleen Hummel, ever since. “I have some of my finest memories at the Haven,” Bedford said. “Christmas time was a joy.”

Started by the Catholic couple in response to young victims of abuse, neglect, drug-exposure and HIV/AIDS in St. Louis, Our Little Haven continues to create a safe, secure and healing environment for children impacted by abuse, neglect and mental or behavioral

Photo Credits: source: Missouri Children's Division Child Abuse/Neglect FY 2018 Report
health needs. Our Little Haven, guided by a belief in a loving God, provides early intervention programs designed for children’s individual and complex needs.

Bedford gives back to Our Little Haven by speaking at events to raise funds for the program. The Hummels, who are members of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Crestwood, “mean a great deal to me,” he said. “They’re family to me. I look at them as my parents and their children as my siblings in a way. They are good-hearted people with a strong foundation, and it shows in their lives and in what they do for people every day. It’s a joy that God allowed our paths to cross.”

Our Little Haven, Bedford said, was the helping hand of God. It “saved my life, and my faith carried me on to where I am today. My scars have healed in (their) own way. Part of that process, my story, led me into what I’m doing for a living today, which is working with abused and neglected children.”

Bedford is a caseworker with Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri, and he’s working on a master’s degree in education. He works to help children in need “through God’s light and my faith. I go back to my foundation, and that foundation was the Haven,” he said.

The beginnings

Scott Hummel
The Hummels met at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., then attended Saint Louis University for master’s degrees in social work. Kathleen then worked for the Evangelical Children’s Home, a United Church of Christ program now known as ECH: Every Child’s Hope. Scott worked at Second Chance Shelter, a family homeless shelter in East St. Louis, Ill., run by the American Red Cross.

“I struggled with the question of why couldn’t these kids and families we were helping get services earlier,” Kathleen said. “That’s how we have grown to be 26 years strong here at Our Little Haven. It’s because of the early intervention.”

Early intervention helps address emotional, traumatic or behavior issues, the Hummels said. “The wounds were happening with children and families at a very early, early age and were unaddressed and untreated,” Kathleen said.

Through prayer and study, especially work by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of Harvard University, they learned that the prevailing approach to children under 10 of “they’ll grow out of it,” “they won’t remember” or “boys will be boys” wasn’t working, Scott said. The Hummels met with other service providers who encouraged them to pursue efforts in early intervention.

“There was a need for a program to respond to these kids under 10 who weren’t getting the help they needed,” Scott said. “It’s easier to change the attitude and behavior of a 5-year-old than a 16-year-old. That’s the approach, simply put.”

Faith aspect

The Hummels also saw it as a response to the Gospel call to care for others in need. They found success early, what Scott attributes to the work of God.

Their faith was an essential part of their drive. From early on, they had the support of faith-filled friends from Rockhurst, many of whom remain on the board of trustees. And they’ve had help from the Catholic community in St. Louis,

Kathleen Hummel
including Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders who bring their faith into the workplace, and from the Jesuits in St. Louis.

Father Robert Weiss, former president of St. Louis University High School and of Rockhurst High School, “opened doors” to support they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. The Jesuit priest also was a calming, wise and pragmatic influence.

Our Little Haven obtained its first building from the Servites, once used for student housing before they moved elsewhere, and it remains based in the Central West End of St. Louis, now in three buildings.

The residential component ended as Our Little Haven began to stress support for families. Key services today are provided through the program’s Keystone Pediatric Mental Health Services, an outpatient mental health practice; Our Little Academy Day-Treatment Pre-School, which provides therapeutic treatment for children; and the Taylor Family Care Center, which provides services for children and families in the foster care system.

Since its start, Our Little Haven has assisted more than 19,000 children and families.


>> Abuse, neglect

The Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division reports the most prevalent characteristics in FY 2018 investigations of abuse and neglect perpetrators were drug-related problems (24%) and history of criminal behavior (18.3%). Other situations included mental emotional disturbance (14.9%) and an inadequate support system (14.8%).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers information on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur to people under the age of 18. In early 2018, a study, “The Adverse Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect,” the CDC and Kaiser Permanente reaffirmed Our Little Haven’s role and efforts in early intervention.

For details and to learn about various studies on the topic, visit www.bit.ly/2IPLDy7.


>> Cookie jar

The concept of a cookie jar is a key component of Our Little Haven. It’s an analogy first proposed to the Hummels, founders of Our Little Haven, by William Brennan, a retired social work professor at Saint Louis University. Brennan said the idea came to him from the Holy Spirit in a dream as a way to simplify the need for the work of Our Little Haven.

The explanation, as stated by Our Little Haven: When we’re born, God gives us a cookie jar and with each positive experience — every hug, each high-five, every success — we get a cookie in the jar. At about 10 years old (the end of our formative years) our cookie jar gets sealed up, and what we have in our jar is what nurtures us for the rest of our lives. Now, most of our cookie jars are pretty full. The Haven Kids Jars are empty, and it’s our honor to fill them.

“This helps me remember what we’re doing,” Scott Hummel said. “We’re filling up cookie jars and inviting people to help us.”

How to help

• Pray for the children and families.

• Give gifts for celebrations of birthdays and holidays.

• Share the story of Our Little Haven’s services.

• Vist the website, www.ourlittlehaven.org. Learn about how to assist at events, attend events, the young professionals group, and ways to contribute. Give online at www.bit.ly/2MHA90r or send a check to Our Little Haven, PO Box 23010 St. Louis. MO 63156-3010. For information, contact (314) 669-9386 or Chris at cmunoz@ourlittlehaven.org

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