Below is a self-interview with Theresa Kent. She is a dear friend and advocate for child abuse victims, specifically those who are abused, not by their parents, but by the homes they are removed to.
1. Do you work or volunteer with any organizations? I am in my second year as a full-time volunteer with the SIA organization (Survivors of Institutional Abuse).
2. What is SIA? SIA stands for Survivors of Institutional Abuse and it is a nonprofit organization that was started in 2010, dedicated to empower and aid the healing of adults who have been subjected to abuse in private or government institutions, detention centers or foster care placements. (SIA-NOW.org)
3. What do you do for each organization? For the SIA organization, I have given speeches, appeared on Radio shows, given reporters interviews, participated in protests/demonstrations; anything to spread awareness. I write letters for students wanting to learn more about how to get involved in Civil Rights. I campaign; even sharing my own personal story to gain the trust of fellow survivors who have been through similar circumstances.
Sometimes I will post something provocative to get people talking on social media; I respect all points of view as I believe we can all learn from each other. I host forums every day where topics are uncomfortable and passion runs deep.
4. What changes are you trying to make? I have outlined a few specific changes I would like to see made.
- I want every child to have access to a phone (abuse hotline). Even if allegations of abuse are false. Children should be provided with protection and oversight from people who abuse power and authority. Especially in the FREE WORLD.
- I want an end to the statute of limitation on crimes like rape or physical abuse against children. If a perpetrator will abuse/neglect or rape a child, (innocent victim) they should be held accountable no matter how much time has passed.
- Facilities should have to be honest about their credentials (i.e. Telling parents they provide counseling/ or calling a home a school… and not having a Licensed Therapist or Certified Teacher) Children should have a set standard for their education. (accreditation/able to transfer high schools/credits etc.)
- No home/school should have to right to obtain legal custody of a minor. There should be some oversight to this. While I understand the need for foster in our world, I do not believe an institution has the best interest of a child. Guardian ad Litem (public/private partnership) should be in place. Training, background checks, oversight etc. Checks and balances.
- All of the above are our Constitutional Rights as Citizens of These United States. Amendment 8 States: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Amendment 14 states: nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. THIS DOES NOT EXCLUDE CHILD CITIZENS!
5. What are you doing to improve human lives? Speaking out, bringing a voice to the voiceless. Children are subject to the adults in their lives. I am an online Children’s Rights Advocate/Activist. We don’t want to raise a generation of violent, cold, uneducated adults. It’s a matter of ALL society.
6. What inspired you to become an activist? I am a Survivor. As a youth, I was unable to voice my own opinion in an effective manner. I have overcome the Child Welfare System, foster care and multiple placements including independent, private boarding schools without oversight. I did not have access to an accredited education or even a telephone. In these facilities, I have had to defecate in a 5 gallon bucket. I was force-fed Caster Oil, to ‘cleanse’ me from the inside out. Sometimes it takes experience to recognize where there is need.
7. What are some of the things SIA has accomplished since you started advocating for them?
- This year we are hosting our 3rd annual SIA Convention.
- We have worked with the media to uncover abuse in homes and institutions.
- One of the teen programs has been shut down due to our efforts (Lighthouse in Florida).
- We have made ourselves and our plight known to politicians such as Congressman George Miller’s office, Senator Michael Padilla (New Mexico), as well as the office of the Mayor of New York City. ); Senator Carlucci’s office (D, NY) honored Jodi Helms (SIA Director and founder) with a proclamation on 5/1/2014.
- We council and have a peer mentorship with several survivors, including a fashion show we hosted for said survivors.
- SIA has an online published daily newspaper now.http://paper.li/SIAOrganization/1322045283
- We have gained support from people all over the world. http://www.sia-now.org/resources/
8. Why do you believe that work you are doing is important? If you don’t stand for something, you could fall for anything. What’s more important than my children?
9. Where are you located? I currently live in the State of Ohio. I have given speeches aired in Hawaii, Washington D.C., Virginia and I work on-line out of my home during the early morning hours to spread awareness. I was in Florida and Ohio facility placements.
10. How many people do you work or volunteer with? Our efforts have reached thousands. It’s a network of all volunteers. Precious time is the most valuable commodity. I have a tight knit group of people I work with consistently from all over the country / world that consists of about 100 people. SIA has 1,320 members as of 5/1/14. More than 2,300 people were officially invited to the convention.
11. Do they share similar stories? Some do. Many do not. Most of the Survivors struggle with basic daily living. We rely on people who are not damaged by their experiences to come forward. As you can imagine, it triggers emotions and memories for the ones who have had to re-live/recall their experiences. Some are relatives of a Survivor, some are teachers, politicians, and we even have media personal, authors and film directors that have taken an interest to our movement.
12. Are all the members of SIA located in different parts of the country? Just like the homes that are scattered all over, we have many supporters affected all over the country with similar experiences or interests.
13. What would you tell someone else that is interested in becoming involved with SIA? Not only would I would tell them what a great group of people these guys are, I would advise them to do their research. These people have seen the ugliest in mankind and they have dedicated their lives to, society’s future. In many cases, the very society that turned their back on them when they were children. I would remind them that this is not happening in a vacuum and that there are numerous people coming forward and reaching out to each other. The advancement in social media has exposed too many people from all over the country, who never met, have the same story.
14. How does someone become involved with SIA? Thank you for asking. We have our main website where you can sign up to volunteer and/or donate: www.sia-now.org (That’s me holding up a banner on the front page, and my son sitting next to the founder/director Jodi Helm-Hobbs). Also, we have events all over the country. We are having our 3rd Annual SIA Convention this week 5/1-5/4/2014 and streamed online: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/3325796/events/2965522
15. What are some things that an individual can do to help this cause?
Grassroots efforts are they way movements happen. This organization has grown substantially over the last few years, through social media. If an individual wishes to help our cause, they can:
- Please visit our website: http://www.sia-now.org/take-action/ for more ways to help.
- Sponsor a fundraising event
- Donate (we accept Pay/Pal)
- ‘LIKE’ us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SIA-Organization/143554165684083
- Subscribe to our feed on twitter: @siaorganization
16. Where does the funding come from for the activities of SIA and Heal-Online? The founder and director of SIA, Jodi Helm-Hobbs, has sacrificed her own time and funds as well as hosted sponsored events and fundraisers. Donations play a very important role in this organization. We are a 501(c)(3) organization.
17. What are some of the projects you are working on now? We are hosting our 3rd annual SIA convention this week in NYC. A demonstration is scheduled to take place in Time Square (the media capital of the world) 5/3/14. Next year will be the 4th annual convention in California. More to come…
Is there anything you would like to say or add?
I gave a speech in Washington DC last year that can be heard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37Ttji9C2SE for the SIA convention to help spread awareness.
I also have appeared on Congressman Runner up Mark Levine’s Radio show in Washington D.C. (Last interview)
I was contacted by a former student on-line and asked to do an interview for a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. That’s how I started my own involvement and research in 2012. Please see this entire study that was done over a year. It’s a three part article.
Alex Zayas, the reporter, linked me with the SIA organization and I learned things about the home, such as its licensing and how they move from state to state that I was wasn’t aware of.
After I faked an illness and had an operation to get out, I made a report against the home back in 1997 to The State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families as well as the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office. I carried a great deal of guilt for the girls I left there when I escaped. I learned the home was closed… Until in 2012, the article from the Tampa Bay Times surface and revealed the girls were shipped out and sent to another Roloff home in Texas.
Many years have passed since my time in the homes. If I only knew how much the world would love me today. This is the information I give to the boys and girls I talk to everyday that are continuing to come out of these facilities. That’s what SIA is; family for the ones who were literally left behind.
Please do your own research. I encourage it. Education and knowledge is POWER. These things happened to me. They are still happening all over the United States today and our children are suffering.
Theresa Kent is a full-time mom to three beautiful boys, advocate and student in addition to her day job. She is an amazing inspiration, a survivor and a woman I’m proud to call friend. Thanks for reading about her story. I hope she inspires you as much as she does me. You can follow her on facebook or on Twitter @TheresaKent. Despite the fact that less than 1% of foster kids graduate from college (even though all are offered free tuition), she is a 4 year graduate of Columbia College. Theresa carried a 3.86 GPA for her A.A. in General Studies and has made the Deans List 4 times. She carries a B.A. in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing.