At the shelter, there's another new kid. He's in fourth grade, slender, handsome and quick with his hands. You don't see him bug another kid. Or hit one. Or take his toy. You just find the wailing child and ask what happened.
So on group night, the group he joined had a good discussion about good and bad dads. After the group, it was playtime. He stayed in the lounge area while I went into the table/play room. Kids quickly started playing with the doll house, cards, dominoes, etc. The babysitters gave them a lot of attention. They were content and having fun.
Meanwhile, I realize we're missing a couple kids. Hear a protest and then another.
Went and looked in the lounge. The new guy had taken a kid's toy and he'd hit him.
I asked him if anyone else at the shelter had ever hurt him. He looked startled. Thought a minute. Said, "No." Then mumbled, "Not yet."
I said, "I can't guarantee no one will ever hurt you here. But I'll tell you right now I haven't SEEN adults hurt kids here. And I promise I will never hurt you."
He shrugged. Sat down on a couch. Stayed there a while, alone.
He walked into the playroom a few minutes later. Went straight to the kid he'd hit. Gave him a book from our bulging bookshelves. "I'm sorry," he said.
The other kid smiled and said, "Read it to me." And he did.
Then he looked at me. I nodded. "Way to go," I said.
It may take a few reminders, but like most of the boys, he wants to be different from the abuser.
I hope he makes it.