Hope, Healing, and A Chance for YOU to Make a Difference

Today is the 6 year anniversary of when the journey of being saved began for our girls!! On April 6th, 2010, they and their 2 younger siblings were removed by our dear friend and one heck of a social worker, Deb Korth. 

Wow! It has been one broken, beautiful, and restorative ride so far. We feel blessed for the opportunity this ride has provided us to help spread awareness about child abuse and neglect. Most importantly that it’s PREVENTABLE and, in the unfortunate circumstances that it isn’t, there is HOPE for HEALING. 

Please celebrate this anniversary with us by reading this post and then following through to DO something. We would love to have you join or support our Burning Brightle Team for The Tour de Cookie! 

A huge thank you to those who have already taken a stand and joined us in some way to spread the word and support The Tour de Cookie!

 A version of this originally published 2/19/16

I feel very fortunate to be living in and raising a family in Montgomery County, Maryland.  The County is well-known for its excellent school system, cultural diversity, thriving business opportunities, and easy access to our nation’s capital.  We are also one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.  In many ways though, the very things that make this and other areas such wonderful places to live, can cloud judgements – making it easy to dismiss the tragic realities of our communities.  One of these realities is that child abuse and neglect is EVERYwhere.

2015 data for Montgomery County’s Child Protective Services indicates that –

  • 6,829 reports of child abuse or neglect were made
  • 1,876 of these reports met the threshold for a full CPS investigation
  • 397 of these investigations had a positive finding of abuse or neglect

National data from 2012 indicates –

  • 6.3 million reports of child abuse and neglect were made
  • 3 million (approximately) of these reports met the threshold for a full CPS investigation
  • 686,000 of these investigations had a positive finding of abuse or neglect

In short, 1 in 4 children are victims of child abuse or neglect.
And, in the United States, 5 children die each day due to child abuse or neglect.

Each of the children and family members who make up these statistics have a name.  And a story.

While you may believe this kind of thing doesn’t happen where you come from, the numbers speak for themselves.  Child abuse and neglect do NOT discriminate.  It is happening to your son’s friend from Cub Scouts, kids in your youth group at church, your daughter’s BFF, the one who bullies your child at recess, the cousins who live together in low-income housing….the list could go on and on.  Yes, it is happening right in YOUR OWN backyard.

The good news?! There are safe places where these stories can be shared and handled with care.  Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) like The Tree House CAC of Montgomery County provide a range of specialized services to children and families impacted by child abuse and neglect.  Among the services provided are forensic interviews, medical services performed by a child abuse certified pediatrician, victim advocacy, psychological assessments, and on-going therapy.  Staff are trained on the impact of child abuse and neglect as well as trauma informed evidence-based practices.  Therapists and other staff are equipped and able to screen, assess, advocate for, support, and work with children and families. Together, they provide appropriate medical, psychological, psychiatric, and therapeutic interventions tailored to each child.  In general, this multidisciplinary approach allows the family to stabilize and work through the resulting trauma from the abuse and/or neglect.

In 2015, The Tree House provided services for over 700 children and families.  The Phoenix Family is just ONE of them. Over the years, we went through multiple therapists with the girls…many times taking months for the girls to get settled and begin to share…only to be told those stories couldn’t be told.  Most of these therapists had the best of intentions, but were either ill-equipped or not permitted to provide the level of specialized services that the girls and our family so desperately needed.  As a result, the trauma continued to boil and eventually reached the tipping point…burning into the lives of the girls, our family, and members of our community.  At just 4 and 5 years old, the girls were experiencing such severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that they became self-injurious and aggressive towards others.  At times they even struggled with suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts and behaviors.  These cries for help reached the point of requiring multiple acute hospitalizations and eventually extended placements in a Residential Treatment Center.  We worked with countless professionals over the 5 years that we were therapeutic foster parents and the majority of them lost hope and labeled our girls as “damaged beyond repair”.

Today we are considered a “success story”.  There is NO doubt in my mind that the greatest influence on our success is the trauma-based and child & family-centered services we have received through The Tree House.  While our friends and their children were rushing off to extra-curricular activities, we were heading to therapy.  For two years we spent the majority of our afternoons and evenings at The Tree House, participating in individual (x3), family, group, and child/parent therapy.  In addition to providing the highest level of therapeutic interventions, our Tree House therapists (and all staff from receptionist to Director) believed in and advocated for our family, and the potential the girls had if afforded permanency through adoption.  This advocacy was crucial to the court case and lead to us being able to finalize all of the adoptions.  In short, the services provided were nothing short of life-saving.

To use the words of The Tree House,

 “The Tree House CAC of Montgomery County Maryland is dedicated to reducing trauma and promoting healing for child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Through an innovative collaborative process between the private and public sectors, key professionals come together on behalf of the best interests of victims. This effective early intervention is essential to ensure that an abused child or adolescent develops into a healthy and productive adult, capable of forming trusting and loving relationships. Underpinning the work of The Tree House is the belief that the cycle of child abuse can be broken and the knowledge that child abuse and neglect is preventable!”

Our girls are highlighted in The Tree Houses’ 2015 Annual Report.  Their names were changed for confidentiality, but I love how hope and healing is highlighted here and in the Tree House’s mission and vision shared above. All too often we hear about the negative impacts of abuse and neglect.  Most recently the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study has brought attention to the potential for long-term affects including early death, increased incidences of incarceration, physical illness, addiction, and depression to name a few.  While this is important information, this doesn’t have to be the plight of our children.  When offered timely & appropriate evaluations and treatment recommendations coupled with effective therapeutic services, children and families are able to strengthen.  This increases resiliency and has the potential to have a strong impact on reversing the negative impacts of adverse childhood experiences.  My girls are living proof of this.

hope and healing pic 1
hope and healing 2
Knowledge is power and WE have the power to educate ourselves and our communities – thereby preventing child abuse and neglect whenever possible, reducing the negative impact of trauma when it occurs, and promoting healing.  

The Phoenix Family and Team Burning Brightle are back for our second year partnering with The Tree House to participate in the Tour de Cookie bike ride and stroll.  This year we are expanding our partnership to include (hopefully) a larger team of riders and strollers, sponsoring the neat cinch backpacks riders receive to store all of the cookies they collect along the ride, fundraising, AND hosting a cookie stand. We are carrying Hope and Healing into our theme for this year’s logo which will be on the back of your Tour de Cookie shirts and front of cinch bags 🙂


Okay, so here is the low down on the  2016 Tour de Cookie:

What: Exciting, fun-filled, and delicious bike ride from one cookie stand to the next. Choose between distances of 12, 26, or 42 miles, and enjoy the scenery and the food! The aim of the event is to raise awareness of child abuse prevention and promote the services offered by The Tree House. All proceeds of the Tree House Tour de Cookie benefit The Tree House CAC, enabling us to better serve our clients. It is a wonderful occasion during which individuals, families, and groups can enjoy a day of fun, festivities, philanthropy, and COOKIES! Watch this video of last year’s event, produced by Andrew Parkison of Green Buzz Agency.

When: Saturday, May 7 2016 from 8:00am – 2:00pm
Where: The Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery County Campus
Fees: $55 per Adult Team Member of Team Burning Brightle (note, this includes $5 team discount). One child 12 and under rides FREE with each paid adult registration. Additional children 12 and under can be registered for $20 each. Fee includes ride, high quality moisture wicking shirt (unisex/men’s sizes), cinch bag with goodies, course support, cookie stands, medical support, technical support, and plenty of post ride fun!

**How to Join Team Burning Brightle as a rider: (click here; select join a team and type “Burning Brightle” into team search field. Type “awesome” as password and click join team. Complete rider information and be sure to also use the promotional code “kpawesometeam” to receive team discount before clicking on register).  

New for 2016…The Tree House Tour de Cookie ØK Stroll! This walk of 906 feet to The Tree House cookie stand and back is especially designed for our non-cycling friends. Come on out, decorate yourselves and your stroller (if you have one and if you want to decorate it), walk, have a cookie, walk back, cheer for our returning riders, and enjoy our expo. If you register by April 10th you also get a t-shirt!

Fees: $24.24 per Aduld Member of Team Burning Brightle (note, this includes a $3 Team discount) and $11.49 for children 12 and under.  Fee includes stroll to the Tree House Cookie Stand, high quality moisture wicking shirt (unisex/men’s sizes), a cookie, and plenty of post stroll fun.

**How to Join Team Burning Brightle as a Stroller: (click here; select join a team and type “Burning Brightle” into team search field. Type “Awesome” as password and click join team. Complete stroller information and be sure to also use the promotional code “KPSTROLLERS” to receive team discount before clicking on register. 

Due to the increasing number of riders registered over the years, The Tree House has had to cap the number of riders for this year. We are quite confident they will reach the cap; so, please DO NOT wait to register or get involved in volunteering. It is also important not to wait, as riders who do not register by 4/10/16 WILL NOT receive the t-shirt.  

If you aren’t able or up to riding or strolling, you are welcome to join us for the Family Expo where you can cheer riders on at the start and finish line, enjoy family-friendly entertainment, a mini-ride for the little kiddos, collect information and giveaways from various community providers, and enjoy food from vendors (bring cash if you plan to purchase lunch or other food/items from vendors).  If you feel compelled to support this awesome cause and/or give outside of riding and strolling, we could use your help and support before, during, and after the event in other ways! Please consider:

  • Recruiting family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc to join Team Burning Brightle **details on how to join our Team as a rider or stroller are above
  • Donating to The Tree House through the Team Burning Brightle donation page.  Your donation is tax-deductible and will go directly to providing services to children and families in Montgomery County. The Tree House CAC is a public/private partnership that relies heavily on donations from the private sector to fund services, provided free of charge, to the clients it serves. 
  • Giving a Tour de Cookie Gift Certificate to a family member or friend to join our team in the ride
  • Joining the Family Expo as an Exhibitor or Volunteer by emailing tourdecookie@treehousemd.org
  • Volunteering to recruit entertainers, sponsors, or help put up event posters/hand out event cards by emailing tourdecookie@treehousemd.org
  • Following, liking, inviting others, and/or sharing the Burning Brightle blog and posts. 
  • Following, liking, inviting others, and/or sharing relevant posts on my Facebook page
  • Following, liking, inviting others, and/or sharing The Tree House and Tour de Cookie Facebook pages and posts

Ready?!? Set…GO! …register and invite a friend to join you, like & share this post, donate, find ways to spread the word, volunteer – these are just a handful of things you can do to create ripples that join together as an unstoppable current. ONE like, ONE share, ONE registration, ONE donation, ONE offer to volunteer at a time…


With love and gratitude, Kristin

About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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One Response to Hope, Healing, and A Chance for YOU to Make a Difference

  1. Annie Bender says:

    The Bender Family is very excited to participate in this with the Phoenix Family! Thank you for your encouragement and devotion to this cause! Blessings! Annie

    Liked by 1 person

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