Restoring families torn apart

Nobody wants to see a family torn apart for any reason, including abuse. But restoring the family is by no means a quick process. In fact, it is usually a long process. But that’s fitting, because usually the problems have been going on for a long time.

Many of our clients come referred to us by DHS. We’re part of an overall treatment plan for those families, providing just some of the tools they can use for restoration.

Many of the parents have been beaten down and hopeless for a while. They grew up in a household with abuse, and despite their best intentions ended up repeating the cycle. They lost hope of ending that cycle long ago.

For those parents, we restore their hope. We show them that they can change. It is possible for them to be a good parent, get their kids back, and have their family together again.

Similarly, the children have lost hope as well. They got to the point where they couldn’t rely on their parents to care for them. And often it had been going on for years!

We play a part in restoring that trust in their parents, which in turn restores the children’s hope. Their parents do have the ability to care for them. They don’t have to rely on a state agency or foster care, they can rely on their own parents.

We love hearing stories from families we've helped, because they really demonstrate cases where parents wanted to change, and we helped equip them with the tools and resources they needed. And that helped to restore those families that had been torn apart.

Make kids safer by educating yourself

You probably don’t want to think about kids getting hit by a car when they cross the street, right? That’s why we educate them on how to cross the street safely. You equip them with the tools they need to know what to do.

Shouldn’t we be educating the community on how to keep our kids safe in regards to abuse as well?

At Family Builders, all of our programs are about education. But we have three that really focus on educating the community that we offer at no charge to just about any group.

The first program is primarily for the parents of children, and that’s our More Than Stranger Danger program. 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated on children by someone they know and trust. We educate parents and guardians on the signs to look for, which includes things like:

  • An adult that wants to spend more time alone with kids than they do with adults.
  • An adult that singles out one particular child and primarily shows attention to that child.
  • An adult that frequently offers to help with children to gain alone time with them.

People worry about the random stranger at the park, but that type of abuse is really rare. It could happen, but it’s much more likely to be someone the child knows and trusts.

The second program is primarily for teachers and care providers, and that’s our Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse program.

People would be amazed how many teachers and day care providers don’t know the signs to look for in regards to abuse happening, much less what to do after they see the signs! We go into schools, churches, and day care centers to teach them what to look for and what to do when they see the signs.

The third program is directed toward children, and that’s our Kids on the Block program. We use puppets to teach children about bullying and abuse. We teach them what to do when they are bullied and abused, and how to keep telling adults until someone believes them.

Family Builders offers all three of these programs free of charge. To learn more or schedule a training session, call us or

Recognizing abuse is the first step to stopping it

If there were a terrible, debilitating, and potentially fatal disease that affected one in four children in our community, wouldn't we all be clamoring for a cure?

Every day in Oklahoma, 41 children are confirmed as victims of abuse. This abuse, whether physical, mental, or sexual, can stifle a child's potential and lead to a wide range of social problems and lifelong health issues. As tragic stories of abuse continue to shock our communities, it has caused Family Builders to ask the question: What if we all looked at child abuse like a true epidemic, like a cancer, that ravages its victims and eats away at the health of the whole community?

How do we fight an epidemic or disease? We talk about it. We see it on television, in social media, and we wear different colored ribbons to signify our support of efforts to eradicate the disease. We remove the stigma surrounding the disease.

Unfortunately, we don't do that with child abuse. Why? I believe it's because child abuse is something so horrific that we don't want to admit it happens in our neighborhood, church, school, etc. But it does. One in four children will be abused before their 18th birthday.

This is everyone's problem, and we all need to have the courage to protect the children we love.

Do you have the courage?

Family Builders can equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to recognize abuse and report it. Our Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and More than Stranger Danger trainings teach adults how to keep the children in their lives safe. In fact, for every adult who attends one of these workshops, 10 children are made safer.

Won't you help fight this epidemic that is ravaging our children? Call us or email to schedule a training for your school or organization.

Protect your children from predators hiding in plain sight

There are plenty of news stories circulating around the Internet and television about child abuse today. We feel pain and compassion for the victim and anger at the abuser, but all too often we go on thinking that this could never happen in my community, or to my child.

The harsh reality is that it could happen to anyone at any time.

Identifying sexual abusers

Sexual abusers look and act just like everyone else. Statistically speaking, there are people that you and your family know (possibly someone at church, your child’s school or daycare, or a regular at the park) who is a child abuser.

After all, 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18. About 90% of children who are sexually abused already know their abuser. And the younger the child, the more likely it is that an abuser will be a family member.

Be on guard for grooming behaviors

Abusers usually “groom” victims, families, and communities before the sexual abuse takes place. This builds trust and allows the abuser to hide in plain sight.

Common grooming behaviors include: finding reasons to spend time alone with a child; giving special, unique attention to one child out of a group; treating a child as older than they really are, and gradually becoming more intimate with physical contact.

Ways you can protect your child

  • Explain to your children that their bodies are their own. Nobody should touch their private parts (make sure they know the correct names!) unless it’s a safe adult helping them to be clean and healthy. Give them a list of situations that fit that criteria, like applying medicine, diaper changes, and helping with the toilet.
  • Monitor who spends time around your children. If an adult consistently only wants to spend time with children, that’s a red flag. Ensure that your child’s school and daycare have up-to-date trainings and background checks, and a policy against adults spending time alone with children.
  • Listen to what your child has to say. If they feel uncomfortable around a person, they don’t have to be around that person. If you feel uncomfortable around a person or in a situation, you are free to take your child away. Trust your intuition.

If you have questions about how you can prevent sexual abuse, give our office a call at (405) 232-8226 or email Desiree Melkovitz at We have trainings for parents and teachers to help them protect the children they care about.

Welcome Patrick Evans on board!

We are excited to announce Patrick Evans as our new Director of Mission Advancement! His experience in development and his passion for our mission will help us further our work with Oklahoma families.

Patrick has consistently been driven to serve his community. When he started college at Oklahoma State University, he worked in an assisted living facility and waited tables. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he entered college, but these jobs allowed him to pay for school.

He moved up the ranks to executive director at the assisted living facility, but realized after a year or two that it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

He struggled to balance the boundary between business and personal life while he worked at the assisted living facility, because the people who needed to be there the most couldn’t afford it.

Ultimately, he transferred to Southern Nazarene University to complete his degree in Gerontology and Family studies (but not before marrying his wife, whom he met through the restaurant he worked at!)

While he never saw himself in sales long-term, Patrick worked in sales for a few years after graduating, since he’s always loved talking with people.

When his wife started working at a nonprofit, that sparked Patrick’s interest as well. Patrick joined the team at World Neighbors and felt very fortunate to do so. He was able to directly help farmers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America by procuring funding to find long-term solutions for hunger, poverty, and disease.

Patrick later moved on to work in development at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and later at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Patrick is joining us as our Director of Mission Advancement, and he’s shared with us that this is a mission that’s very close to his heart.

Patrick’s parents were both nurses, and he learned how to care about people through them. But like a lot of families, Patrick’s family wrestled with how to overcome a violent, challenging past.

His father’s father was violent physically and emotionally, and ultimately his grandmother left because of this. While Patrick’s father didn’t want to be like his own father, it can be difficult to unlearn the patterns you’ve learned as a child. Most evenings at Patricks house were very loud, and his older sister and his mother took the brunt of his father’s anger.

But Patrick’s dad didn’t want to be that kind of person, and his mom had a lot of strength to keep going. They both wanted to get help for their family, so they started going to counseling and support groups-similar to what we do here at Family Builders. Patrick is proud to say that this made an enormous, positive difference in his family growing up.

He considers this living proof that the cycle of violence can end. Patrick and his wife, Tina, strive to be great parents to Abigail, age 10, and Cooper, age 7. He’s proud that Abigail understands that sometimes parents need help being better parents, and she can explain this to her little brother.

Patrick is excited to get the word out about Family Builders to even more people who can help us further our mission. He’s passionate about helping to end the cycle of child abuse and family violence, and we are happy to have him join us in that mission!

Welcome on board, Patrick!

“13 Reasons Why” you can help prevent tragedies

Netflix has released, yet again, a smashing, binge-worthy TV show-one that you’ve likely heard about and your children likely want to watch.

But, before you hit play on “13 Reasons Why,” we want you to know what to expect, and how you can best prepare yourself to have conversations with the children and adults in your lives about the situations that are played out in this TV show. So yes-there are a few spoilers coming up, but they’re important for you to know about as a parent.

What you can expect in the show

“13 Reasons Why” portrays a girl who leaves behind a set of tapes in which she explains the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide. She asks that the individuals mentioned in the tapes listen to them completely and then pass them on to the next person.

There are very serious themes discussed in this series and many of the portrayals are extremely graphic and contain triggering imagery. Some of the themes include:

  • Suicide
  • Self-injury
  • Bullying
  • Gun violence
  • Child abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Rape

In the final episode, the main character goes to her school counselor because she wants to give life “one more chance.” She confides in him that she wants life to be over, and that she was sexually assaulted at a party.

But, her counselor never questions her intentions and instead instructs her that unless she is willing to name her perpetrator, it’s best if she just “moves on.” Distractedly, he takes a phone call as the student leaves the office; she’s praying that he will follow her, reach out to her. But he does not. She then goes home and kills herself.

Family Builders is passionate about seeing the children of Oklahoma grow in environments where their physical and emotional safety is being tended to, and we’re committed to that goal.

Because of that, we’ve compiled a list of thirteen things you can do to help prevent these tragedies. How many of these preventative measures can you take in your community?

1. Talk to your children-start early and do it frequently. You never want to be the last to know that they are struggling with something.

2. Begin educating your children at an early age that their body is their own, and that only they can determine what happens to it.

3. Implement family dinners so that your children know that there is dedicated time every night to communicate anything they may be going through.

4. Be present when interacting with children. Work on turning off phones and televisions when your children are speaking with you; this validates that what they are saying is important to you.

5. Work with your children on finding positive stress relievers such as physical activity, reading, or volunteering within their community.

6. Lead by example for your children to demonstrate the importance of “screen-free time” and interacting with those people who are physically present.

7. Talk to your children about sexual consent and the realities of “sexting.” Here are some links to help you get started:

8. Educate your children about cyber bullying, and emphasize the importance of speaking up when they witness online bullying. This is a helpful resource:

9. Be involved with your children’s schools-know their policies and advocate for specialized training for the staff to help identify and prevent harmful situations.

10. Schedule a Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse training. This is a free training from Family Builders designed to educate teachers on the signs of child abuse and how to intervene and report the abuse in a way that keeps the children safe.

11. Schedule a More than Stranger Danger training. This is a Family Builders program for parents that walks them through the process of creating safe boundaries and offers practical tips on protecting children from sexual abuse.

12. Schedule a Kids on the Block presentation. Kids on the Block is an interactive puppet program for elementary-aged children that deals with topics such as bullying and child abuse in a kid-friendly manner.

13. Educate your children about the resources that are available to them in the event that they experience emotions or situations that they cannot process on their own. These resources can start with yourself and include school counselors, mental health professionals and other trained and trusted adults.

To schedule a free training with your group contact Desiree Melkovitz at 405-232-8226 or

And if you ever suspect that a child you know is experiencing abuse, contact the Department of Human Services Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-522-3511.

Other useful hotlines:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Domestic Violence hotline: 405-917-9922
Sexual Assault hotline: 405-943-7273

Of course, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911!

There’s a lot you can do to protect Oklahoma children and prevent tragedies like the fictional one in “13 Reasons Why.” Let us know how we can help you do your part!

How you can help end child abuse

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month. At Family Builders, we work to stop child abuse in Oklahoma every month of the year-and this is a great time to share ways that you can help end child abuse.

By learning how to identify the signs of abuse, you can be a voice for vulnerable children in your life.

Training for school personnel

Erin's law, enacted in 2015 in Oklahoma, requires all public schools to provide training for teachers that includes:

  • How to recognize the child abuse, neglect and child sexual abuse
  • Proper reporting of suspect abuse

At Family Builders, we have been providing training that fits the Erin’s Law requirements for school personnel, parents and other child service professionals for four years.

We are proud to offer our “Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse” training free to area schools. If you’re concerned that your school, church, or daycare staff aren’t adequately trained, let’s talk about how we can remedy the situation.

Stranger Danger is NOT enough

Most often, children are abused by someone they know, love and trust. Ninety percent (90%) of sexually abused children know and trust their abuser and only ten percent (10%) of them will ever tell about their abuse. The Jerry Sandusky case is a prime example.

It’s critical that parents know and understand how predators groom a family, school, or church to gain access to children. Schools, churches, daycares, etc. need to know how to protect the children in their care.

Family Builders has a training called “More than Stranger Danger” designed to teach parents how to protect their children.

Every adult is a mandated reporter (yes, even you!)

In the state of Oklahoma, anyone over the age of eighteen who suspects child abuse is required to report it either to DHS or law enforcement. But do you know what to look for?

You don’t have to investigate and be certain that abuse is occurring before you make a report. In fact, you shouldn’t even try to investigate because you could make matters worse. But if you suspect abuse, you can make a difference in the life of that child by reporting it to the DHS child abuse hotline any day, any time at 1-800-522-3511.

Want to schedule a training for your school, church, or your parent group? Get in touch with us, and we’ll make it happen. Call or email Desiree at our office, 405-232-8226 or for more information.

After buying a shotgun, he found a better way forward

“You like to think that you’re a good person. You never meant for this to happen. You never intended for things to be like this.”

Those words were spoken by a client of ours, Sean. For years, Sean and his wife were in an abusive relationship, and it all happened in front of their children. Because it was mutually abusive, neither of them ever went to the authorities.

Finally, after fourteen years of a bad situation, she got in her car and left. Sean hasn’t seen her since.

Understandably, Sean’s son had a lot of anger over the situation. He ended up taking that anger out on Sean, and Sean reciprocated.

Sean loves his son, and would do anything for him, yet he found himself being physically abusive toward him. Depression was persistent. Suicide seemed like the only way out. Sean even went as far as purchasing a shotgun.

On April 21, 2014, The Oklahoman ran an article on Family Builders. In that article, they had one single paragraph that mentioned our Batterer’s Intervention Program:

Another program Family Builders provides is the Batterer’s Intervention Program that focuses on retraining thinking patterns and addresses issues of power and control. It is a 52-week program geared towards perpetrators of domestic violence.

Sean wanted to exhaust every option before suicide, so he made a call. Just a few months later, he started classes.

It was a transformative experience for Sean. He later shared, “It was a lifeline I was able to take hold of and pull back from the brink.”

Sean embraced the classes and did the work, and his life changed as a result.

“This was the path I was looking for, the way forward... To be the man that I knew I could be.”

Sean knows the problem is bigger than just his experience. But he believes there is hope for all of us, especially in Oklahoma. Sean shared, “Not only can individuals change, but society can change too. There is help, there is hope, there is a path forward.”

Watch Sean’s story in the video below.

How to have a better Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day that comes with a lot of expectations! It’s easy to think that everyone is having an exciting, romantic day (or everyone except you) with what we’re used to seeing on TV and in the movies.

And Valentine’s Day can be a great day. A bit of communication goes a long way to help make that happen!

If you’re in a relationship, talk with your significant other about what you’re both hoping for. Is your vision of Valentine’s Day a romantic dinner out? Are you hoping for flowers or a certain kind of gift? Would you prefer to stay in and have a relaxing night at home?

It’s entirely possible that your significant other will want the same thing as you do, but more often than not, he or she has a different idea of what would make for a great Valentine’s Day. And that’s okay! But it’s important to talk about what expectations you both have, because unmet expectations often lead to disappointment and frustration.

By talking about your expectations, you can learn what is important to each other and find a plan for Valentine’s Day that gives both of you the most important parts of what you were hoping for.

But good communication isn’t just for couples on Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re in a relationship or not, you can probably think of some people you know who will be having a difficult Valentine’s Day this year.

Do you have a friend who was recently divorced or separated? A parent or family friend who recently became a widow or widower? A friend who has been single for a long time, even though they would love to be coupled up?

Find ways to make Valentine’s Day better for the people you know who are struggling with it. Send a bouquet or a note. Give them a call and really listen. Invite them to get coffee or drinks with you.

Good communication with all the important people in your life can help make Valentine’s Day a day that really is a celebration of the people you love.

Recognizing and reporting child abuse

Maybe you’ve had this experience: you’re watching or reading the news, and you come across a story of a child who has been abused. Perhaps it was by a family member, a coach, or someone from church.

You feel for the child, but at the same time you wonder, how did nobody know about this until now? Surely their mom, their teacher, or some other adult in this child’s life noticed something was wrong?

That’s a pretty common reaction to news of child abuse. One of the things we do in the Oklahoma City community is teach parents and teachers how to recognize the signs of child abuse so they are able to notice when something is wrong, and they’ll know how to react.

Here, I’ll share a bit of what these trusted adults learn in our Recognizing & Reporting Child Abuse training.

Signs and symptoms

Signs of physical abuse include burns or bruises that don’t match up with normal childhood play, injuries after a child has been out of school or daycare for a few days, and frequent injuries that are either unexplained or where the child and parent’s stories don’t line up.

Signs of sexual abuse can include a significant change in either mood or behavior, knowledge of sex acts beyond what’s age-appropriate, and fear of being alone with adults (particularly if they’re afraid of adults of one gender).

Signs of neglect include lack of adequate medical care, often being late or absent from school, and frequently being hungry or asking for extra food. Signs of emotional abuse include destructive or antisocial behavior, physical or developmental delays, and habit disorders.

Children who face abuse at home may be reluctant to go home over school breaks. They might act out or, depending on the child, aim for perfect behavior. What you should look for is a significant change of behavior compared to what’s normal for that child.

What you can do

We often speak with parents and teachers who aren’t aware of this, but any adult who suspects child abuse is legally obligated to report that abuse. We’re all mandatory reporters in Oklahoma.

If a child opens up to you about abuse, believe them. Children very, very rarely make this up. They may open up to you with a partial disclosure, so it’s important to let them know that you are safe to talk to.

Ask open-ended questions so the child can tell you in his or her own words what has been going on. When you call the Child Abuse Hotline, be ready to give as much information as you can: the child’s name, age, address, school, and what you’ve noticed that makes you concerned about abuse. If you suspect that a parent is the perpetrator of the abuse, do not let them know you are calling the hotline. They may coach the child in what to say to minimize or hide the abuse.

The Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-522-3511. But definitely call 911 if you believe the child is in immediate danger.

Because of the new “Erin’s Law” that was recently passed, all school personnel are required to receive training to prevent child abuse. Our Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse training helps schools fulfill this requirement, and we are proud to offer it free of charge to area schools.

If you have questions or would like to bring our Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse training to your school, call our office at 405-232-8226.

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