Lynn fire stations open to children
By Thor Jourgensen
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
LYNN -- When a group of child protection organizations sought out places where children could be safe day or night, Fire Chief Edward Higgins offered them not one but eight locations.
He offered them fire stations.
Higgins' designation of the city's fire stations as safe houses won praise from Lynn Community Connection Coalition, an organization working since February to bring together public agencies and social service groups serving children.
"The chief said he would make every station a welcoming place. I drive home at night and see kids who make me want to stop and say, 'Are you all right?'" said Connection program coordinator Pamela Freeman.
Firefighters assigned to fire headquarters on Western Avenue handed out balloons, cotton candy, key chains and plastic fire helmets on Monday to children like Samantha Schumann.
The St. Pius school fifth-grader wasted no time attaching a plastic key chain in the shape of a fire truck to her balloon string. Her mother, Alice, likes the idea of opening fire stations to children walking home from school or who are too afraid to go home to a chaotic family situation.
"They know this is a safe place to go," she said.
Higgins said he has seen firefighters throughout his career counsel children and adults who come into stations looking for help or food and shelter. He said firefighters know how to contact state or non-profit agencies capable of providing these services.
"Occasionally, we have distraught parents come in to see us, saying, 'I don't know what to do about my kids.'"
Freeman said Community Connection plans to spend the next several months organizing different projects aimed at steering families away from abuse and other situations harmful to children.
The organization brought together District Court employees, agency representatives, lawyers and elected officials Tuesday to discuss abuse prevention.
Essex Juvenile Court Justice Sally Padden said the court supervises 100 children in Lynn with the help of probation workers. Between 350 and 400 child care and protection requests are filed every year in the court to protect children from parents with substance abuse problems and their own histories of childhood neglect.
"A 7- or 8-year-old child who doesn't go to school isn't just stubborn but reacting to a situation," Padden said.
Delores DeFillipo, a child abuse specialist in District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office, said parent's resistance sometimes hinders prosecutors' and social service agencies' abilities to help abused children.
Freeman said Connection's upcoming projects will work to help overcome that resistance.
"We're looking for another way to strengthen families," she said.
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04-28-2004, 10:32 PM #1
A big thumbs up to the Lynn fire department!I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
04-29-2004, 08:01 AM #2
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- Feb 2004
sounds like that will work out for teh community pretty wellBucks County, PA.
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