Comfort Zone designed to comfort kids

Dubois County Court-Appointed Special Advocates Director Deena Hubler, left, gives a tour of the new Comfort Zone to Dubois County Council Member Charmian Klem of Bretzville and her children, Ada, 3, Nora, 11, and Ty, 9, during the open house in Jasper on Monday. The Comfort Zone was created to provide a more comfortable place for children to wait for their placement after being removed from their home. Marlena Sloss/The Herald.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Comforting children during a time they are removed from their home and placed in another home is the goal of the Comfort Zone.

“We don’t want to think that they need it, but they do,” said Deena Hubler, head of Dubois County’s Court-Appointed Special Advocates. “And the fact that we can do this, with everyone coming together to make this happen, is huge.”

The room, which CASA created using donations, is equipped with games, books, videos games and other things to make children feel better. While volunteers spend time with them, Department of Child Services works in another room to find a safe place for them to go.

“This is beyond anything I could imagine,” Hubler said. “That we can do this for the children in our county, this is like a dream come true.”

Typically, when a child is removed from a home, the child is at the DCS office with the family case manager while that person makes calls to find a placement home.

At the Comfort Zone, volunteers will be attentive to the child’s needs. If the child is hungry, he will be fed. If the child needs extra clothes, he will be able to pick out some from the available stash. If the child wants to sleep, there is a comfy couch and bean bag in the room; the child will get a new pillow and blanket to use and keep. If the child wants to play a game, watch television, read a book — the volunteers will do that with them. And if the child wants to talk, the volunteers will listen.

“It’s the volunteers’ job to make these kids comfortable,” Hubler said. “If the kid comes in and they want mac ’n cheese for breakfast or pancakes at 5 o’clock, we don’t care, if that’s what makes them comfortable.”

A few years ago, some CASA volunteers suggested to Hubler that a space be made to comfort children during that time of crisis. The only other program similar to this is the Isaiah 1:17 project in Vanderburgh County; but this is the only one Hubler knows of that is done by a CASA program. At that time, DCS said it would not use the room.

But then, DCS leadership changed. The plan was proposed again, and DCS was enthusiastic about the idea, Hubler said.

In the meantime, CASA was named as a recipient of the money raised at the 2018 100 Men Who Cook fundraiser. CASA used some of that money to cover the construction costs for enclosing its carport and creating the space. Furnishings for the room were paid through CASA’s endowment through the Dubois County Community Foundation.

So far, 14 people have volunteered as Comfort Zone volunteers, and those volunteers are completely different from the CASA volunteers. But both groups undergo background checks.

Although there are 14 Comfort Zone volunteers, “We could use another 14,” Hubler said.

Volunteers will be on call for particular days. The Department of Child Services contacts Jane Merder, coordinator of the Comfort Zone, to let her know that a child is on the way. Merder will then call in the volunteer.

When the child arrives, he or she will be taken into the room. While the DCS worker is in another room making calls to find placement, the children will be cared for by the volunteers. “It will be easier for them,” Hubler said, “because we will be watching the kids while they do their work.”

DCS workers saw the space last week, “and they were thrilled,” Hubler said, “especially the assessment workers. They were overwhelmed.”

Before the children leave the Comfort Zone, they also get to take with them items to call their own. They pick out a new duffel bag and choose various essential items: clothes, a blanket, a pillowcase for the new pillow they get. “The older kids even get to pick out the kind of deodorant they want,” Hubler said. “It’s good for the kids to be able to pick out what they want.”

They also get to pick out a book to take with them. Babies and toddlers are also sent with diapers, baby wipes and formula.

“Hopefully this will help make the placement transition a little easier for foster parents,” Hubler said, “so hopefully, they can focus (first) on getting the kids settled in.

“We can’t take all the stress out of the situation. But we hope we can take it down a notch.”

CASA will need ongoing monetary donations to help replenish the supplies in the Comfort Zone room. “We’d like them to be monetary, so that we can purchase what we need,” Hubler said, “rather than get an overstock of things we’d have to store somewhere.”

To donate or to volunteer, contact Hubler at 812-639-0143. Dubois County CASA also has a Facebook page.




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