A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being invited to Fort Myers, Florida, to be the keynote speaker for an educational symposium on the family dynamics of hoarding. One of the organizers, Dr. Belinda Bruster, had read my book, and liked its perspective "from the inside out." She passed it along to members of the Lee County Hoarding Task Force, and next thing I knew, I was on my way to Florida Gulf Coast University, where the program was being presented.
I'm a writer, not a speaker, but I felt this was something that I needed to do. The members of the Task Force were warm and welcoming and eager to learn about the COH experience. With the help of my college-age son, I had put together a Power Point presentation, and my husband, who had accompanied me on the trip, managed the slides. For about 30 minutes, I talked to 60 or more people about what it was like to grow up in a hoarded home. One of the points I stressed was how animal hoarding seems to get a lot more press and sympathy than children living in the hoard. I emphasized that we, as COH, don't want to see animals living in this kind of environment either, but if it is bad for animals, then it is equally as bad, if not worse, for children (animals don't have to go to school, leave home with no basic life skills etc).
I've included some links to interviews from the seminar below, with a couple of disclaimers:
The gentleman who interviewed me for the first story (he mentions my "hoarder mother," wrong...oh, well..) told me that he had never once thought about the children prior to my presentation.
The female reporter in the second story mentions that I couldn't sleep in my own bed; she pulled that out of some other COH information, but not mine. I could sleep in my own bed; it just took a while to get there. :)
I ended the presentation by telling about a program on hoarding I had attended a week or so before coming to Fort Myers. The presenter had done a great job: really nailed the frustration of dealing with hoarders and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting them to change their behavior long term. After his program, I went up to him, and asked what he and his associates (whose job/career it is to work with hoarders) were doing to help the children they encountered in these situations. His response?
When he saw my face, he hastened to explain that they were "too busy working with the hoarder."
After citing this example at my own presentation, I said (or attempted to say, as this is where I got choked up in front of all those people), it is time to change our priorities and put our focus on innocent children who have no say/ no choice in how they live and how they are brought up.