Breaking News
More () »

Breaking the cycle of child abuse | Poland mom gives kids childhood she never had

POLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- The latest statistics from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services show that reports of child abuse are decreasing year to year.

Abuse will never end completely – but there are programs to prevent it from starting in the first place, through the Community Partnership for Protecting Children.

Because of a family home visiting program through a non-profit called "Advocates for Children" in Lewiston, a mom in Poland is giving her kids the childhood she never got.

“For me, it was how I grew up. I didn’t want that for my kids," said Goldthwait.

Goldthwait remembers a childhood marred by alcohol and anger.

”It definitely happened quite a bit. Physical, emotional – me and my brothers and sister, but I would try to take it so they didn’t get hurt," said Goldthwait.

Goldthwait also had to overcome her struggle with substance use. She is now 22 months sober, and she recognizes she could have given her older children better lives.

She said she plans to give her one-year-old daughter, Arijah, the childhood she deserves.

”I needed to change that because they need me. Every kid needs their mom. I still need my mom even though she’s not the greatest mom, I still need mom. She’s my mom," said Goldthwait.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says one-third of people abused in childhood will grow up to hurt or neglect their own kids. Goldthwait never did that.

"I couldn’t. I can’t. You want your child to feel love and respected. You want them to respect you. You don’t want them to fear you. I was scared of my mom.”

In 2016, Maine’s DHHS investigated 8,279 reports of child abuse deemed necessary for assessment – a number that dropped year to year since 2014.

Because of Goldthwait’s medication-assisted treatment for her substance use, DHHS was involved from the moment Arijah was born.

”I was really nervous. I was scared to death that they weren’t going to let us take her home," said Arijah's father, David Mac Neill.

DHHS recommended the Maine Families program.

Natasha Turcotte visits Goldthwait, Arijah, and her dad David, on a regular basis -- performing family visits for Advocates for Children – the Child Abuse and Neglect Council for Androscoggin County.

”When families do bring up that they were physically or mentally abused as children, we can pinpoint, ‘okay, you were abused , and you don’t want to do that to your child, so what can we do?” said Turcotte.

Androscoggin ranks fifth out of Maine’s 16 counties for reports assigned for Child protective assessment.

"We always keep that in the back of our mind and we try to keep an open ear and look out for any signs of that," said Turcotte.

In addition to tracking child’s development, family visitors like Natasha also teach parents skills like discipline, redirection, and appropriate ways to interact with kids, and prevent abuse in the first place.

”A lot of first-time parents get pregnant and are excited about having a baby and then baby comes and they’re like, ‘oh, what do I do with this baby?’" said Turcotte. "When a family gets enrolled prenatally, it gives them more time and us more time to educate them on what to expect when they have a newborn.”

Goldthwait said this is not the first time she's been involved with the Maine Families program, but that she learns new techniques for raising kids with every visit.

“She’s become like a friend," Arijah's father, David Mac Neill, said about Turcotte.

”I don’t want my kids to be afraid of me. I want them to feel like they can come to me when they need me," said Goldthwait.

The services are free, because of federal and state funding. Maine Families is funded by general state funds and federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) funding.

Services often cover parent child interaction, community resources, nutrition, and more. The family visitors can meet with families in other public places besides the family's home.