• Bonnie Jean


A nine-year-old boy arrives at school ranting and raving about the people he is living with kicking him out of their home the night before, causing him to sleep in a closet at the farmer’s market nearby. This boy’s mother left him with his father when he was an infant, his father recently died and his blood relatives did not want him. At the time he was living with friends of the family. When authorities came to investigate the boy’s claims, the boy was calm, quiet and said nothing of the prior statements or anything that would give authorities the ability to change his living arrangements. When the boy was twelve, that family no longer wanted him and gave him to the state. By this time, the boy’s behavior was out of control. By the age of thirteen his violent outbursts caused him to be arrested several times to the point that no one would take him and he was moved to a secure facility. Teachers report at thirteen he was also unable to read.

A man in his forties shares how his family still to this day discusses what a difficult child he was, how he was arrested as a youth and encountered serious struggles with dysfunctional relationships on into his adulthood. Growing up his family, though not perfect, had a good family structure and by all accounts did not appear to be the source of this man’s struggles. What he has never shared with any of them is how he was exposed to pornography at a very young age and was raped and molested as a child.

Every day I meet children who are struggling with behaviors that are either hurting themselves, hurting others or both. Once I learn their story it usually brings clarity to where their behaviors stem from and how, more often than not, are unbeknownst to them a cry for help. Not that this excuses their behaviors, but it is easy to see how they are simply doing their best to process experiences that they themselves did not create or ask for. A close friend of mine’s favorite saying is, “You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.” Every time I hear a story of a child who is struggling through the circumstances they did not create, a victim who is trying to break free from abuse, a violent act that has been committed or a senseless suicide, this quote rings through my head.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have a tremendous impact on future violence, victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.” Studies are revealing more each day how adverse childhood experiences negatively affect the psychological development of a child. These studies further show how unhealthy behaviors are a direct result of a child being exposed to multiple adverse or traumatic experiences; like abuse, witnessing violence, substance abuse and mental illness, parent separation or divorce, an incarcerated family member, neglect or traumatic injury

The Mustard Seed Ranch of Florida believes that, like a seed, every heart holds potential waiting to be unlocked regardless of its present circumstances. Our mission, through this volunteer driven and community supported program, is to empower middle school age youth who are struggling with at risk behaviors to develop character, social awareness and leadership qualities. Using a combination of project-based mentoring, animal interactions, team building activities and research-based programming, we equip our youth to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, find their purpose and strive to be successful members of their community.  Join us in unlocking the potential in a heart today.


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