County gets first 'Safe Place' refuge for troubled kids

By GAYLE COULTER State Journal Staff Writer Published:

You may have seen the yellow signs proclaiming a business or building a "Safe Place" before in other cities but never really thought much about it.

Some local officials have been thinking for nearly two years about a way for Franklin County to offer "Safe Places" where children can turn for help in times of crisis.

On Monday, Franklin County was able to join the ranks of more than 11,500 sites in 42 states that offer Safe Places. The first sign of 58 to come in the community is already hanging on the Kroger building in Brighton Park.

There are times when children need a safe place to run to. The purpose behind the sign is to offer children who are in abusive, neglectful, dangerous situations or having family problems a place to go to for immediate help and was first launched in Louisville in 1983 through the YMCA of Greater Louisville.

An 11-year-old boy named Brian who didn't know what it felt like to have a safe place is the face behind the project for Sandy Bowen, executive director, YMCA National Safe Place.

Bowen told various city and county officials at an inception ceremony when she thinks about the kind of impact the program can have, she thinks about Brian who watched his mother kill herself with a handgun.

Brian's father promptly remarried a younger woman who didn't have much use for him, Bowen said. When his Dad died soon thereafter because of an unexpected health problem, Brian was left in the custody of a stepmother who didn't want him. She sent him to live with his 19-year-old sister who was struggling with a newborn baby of her own. His sister pawned him off on his 89-year-old grandmother who was too frail and sickly to take care of him. That led to his first foster home where he suffered physical abuse.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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