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Episode 117: Amanda Childs and Community Service Inc are Keeping Families Strong In Northwest Arkansas

Spread the Ozark love

IANWA - Amanda Childs (edited)

IANWA Open [0:11] It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. The podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy Wilburn [0:42] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host, Randy Wilburn, and I'm excited today. One of the things that, and this is my little preamble before this episode starts. But one of the things that I've been trying to do is try to connect the dots on different programs and organizations here in Northwest Arkansas. We need to get to get by. There are all kinds of organizations. We had a chance to sit down with some charter schools. Hope Academy, they're in Bentonville. We have connected with some other organizations here and we are going to have some new episodes coming up that talk about the fabric of life in Northwest Arkansas and the services that are here at our disposal. So, if you live in Northwest Arkansas, if you're coming to Northwest Arkansas, and you're wondering, are these things available here? Well, they absolutely are. And today's episode is no exception. I'm sitting here with Amanda Childs, who is with CSI, Community Service, Inc. They are based out of Russellville, but they recently opened up an office here in Northwest Arkansas where everything happens. It's exciting to sit here with Amanda and she was telling me her story and her background; it’s amazing. I had to stop her because we gotta get this all on tape so that we can share a little bit about her superhero origin story and then get into how CSI came to set up shop here in Northwest Arkansas and the difference they're trying to make in the lives of young people. I'm not going to steal any of her thunder, so, without further ado, Amanda Childs, how are you doing?

Amanda Childs [2:11] I'm doing pretty good,

Randy Wilburn [2:12] It is so great to have you on here. We appreciate you taking time out of your schedule. We're meeting socially distant for those of you that can't see this because nobody can see this because you're only going to hear the audio, but we are meeting socially distant. And it's nice to be in front of somebody else, a human being right now, so it's exciting to do that. I would love for you to share a bit of your superhero origin story, who Amanda Childs is and how you came to come work with CSI?

Amanda Childs [2:42] I was born in England. My father is English and my mom had just moved over there. She found a job, of course, fell in love with a man, and when we were living in England, it's just really hard to live over there, and we did not have good economic standing. So, we found ourselves homeless for a bit. I had family in Louisiana, so they let us move in for a while. From there, we moved from place to place, and I kind of grew up. My parents were very interested in what people think they should see, rather than the reality of our lives. My mom has a good heart and my dad has a good heart, but it's hard to be a parent. It really is. And I think for them, they were in a tough spot. They were both alcoholics and just struggling to get by, but they wanted the best for me. I know they did. But I think sometimes kids look at their parents, and they're like, you just don't get it. I very much grew up with that mentality that my parents just didn't get it. I struggled in school. I was always that cute little blond-headed girl in school, so I would just walk around and be really quiet, and nobody paid much attention to me, so I grew up. I didn't do much homework and I didn't do well in school. It was about in fifth grade when a teacher called me out in class and wanted me to read aloud. And I was like, oh, I don't want to do this. I don’t want to do this, and she realized I couldn't read. I had to have been 10, 11 somewhere around there and I could not read. I think in my life, I've probably read about four books cover to cover at this point, but that's about it. So, I really had to learn how to adapt and deal and move on. And my parents weren't aware of all that. Again, my dad was English, so it was even more of a culture shock. But being English, I grew up with a lot of those same habits. So, when I went to school, kids would pick on me because I wasn't raised in an American-style home. I ate weird food, so it was interesting growing up, but I did some activities. I learned how to sail a boat when I was like seven and did that up until forever. And then eventually, I started teaching sailing camp because our sailing camp was going to close, so I borrowed a boat and had a couple of kids come out there and teach them how to sail boats. I've always had that passion for helping. When I was about 13, I had an uncle who passed away from AIDS. Of course, this was in the 90s and everyone was freaked out, which piqued my interest, and you know what, I felt that compassion for people who went through a horrible situation. I decided I want to volunteer. I want to work with people who are diagnosed with AIDS. I had to go through a couple of people who were like, are you sure? You're young. So, I had to get tested when I was young and worked in a halfway house with homeless men due to an AIDS diagnosis. So, there was a nursing facility there too and I would work with the nurses, and they would let me bake cookies, play chess, and listen to those men’s stories. I loved it. I really did. I ended up having to speak to the City Council on it because, at that time, nobody was doing that stuff. And so, from there, I got into a lot of volunteering. I didn't care about school because I was just volunteering, making people feel good. Again, I didn't like school. I didn't do well in school; even when they found out that I wasn't reading very well, they continued to pass me. In high school, they had to get me tested and they were like, you have dyslexia. They did a plethora of tests and the examiner looked at me, and he was like, your education level you're at is really low and I don't know if you will ever really go to college or succeed in college or academics. I just looked at him like, alright, whatever. He wrote me off and based on the information he had, I get it, but numbers are numbers. He did say that my logic skills were pretty high and I had a much higher IQ, which was odd.

Randy Wilburn [6:49] That's the case, though. As you shared with me, it's very personal for me. And what I didn't tell you is that my wife is actually a dyslexia tutor. So, she's a certified dyslexia. She works with kids and adults from that perspective. First of all, and I've shared this before on the podcast that one in five-grade school kids have dyslexia, and most of them go undiagnosed for a long time. It's always, oh, Harry reads slow, or Susan can't read. The schools do what they can to diagnose it, but it is a gaping hole in our education system when it comes to addressing dyslexia. I'm pretty sure you would agree with that.

Amanda Childs [7:37] Yes, and it's hard to identify. I never really knew that I was dyslexic. I couldn't read and I would lose track; it was difficult. I didn't really see the manifestation of my dyslexia until I started working in my 20s because I would read an email and respond to it, and I would get someone to email me back. I was like, did you read it? Because I would flip words around and I didn't realize it. Sometimes I have to catch myself and not respond to emails for a good 24 hours, so I would have time to go back and look at it. Especially back then, there weren't a lot of resources and a lot of support for kids, and I got bullied in school. We're not talking like, oh, kids were just meant to hurt my feelings. I have a burn mark on my body from a kid who was like, hey, feel this, so I had a tough time. And so, I very much went inward. So school, I don't want to be there. I wasn't doing well at it. So, by the time I got to my senior year of high school, I just wasn't going. And when I did go, I felt very alienated, so I just made it worse. I would wear odd clothes or bring random books and leave them around, and even more so, I just decided nobody liked me. So going to school just didn't care. My mom decided she would apply for me to go to college, and she did and I was like, alright, I guess I'm going to college now. It was six hours away from home and I didn't like being home. So, I was like, alright, we're going and that I think that was the pinnacle of changing my life around; my first semester of college. I think I made a point six, seven, or something like that – RW: you’re overachieving. Oh yeah, like I was really trying to go for something. But I remember walking in on one of my finals and asked the teacher if I make 100 on this will I pass the class and he was like, probably not. I was like, it's nice knowing, have a good one. I got into a sorority somehow. I tried even to sabotage that a couple of times, but it didn't work. So, I got in and all of a sudden, I had a group of very supportive girls who cared about my grades. They cared about my activities. They made me feel accepted and they actually cared. I didn't have that growing up. My parents loved me, but being invested in a kid is a different story, and both my parents were much older. And so, I was like the third wheel. I learned a lot of skills to take care of myself. I learned how to adapt. Just before I left for college, I lost a good friend of mine. And when she passed away, that was really hard on me because she was still in high school, so all I could picture repeatedly was, these are all the opportunities she will never get. She will never get married, never have kids, and she was a good kid. She went to school. She did great. And here I was, the kid who didn’t invest in anything who didn't care one way or the other. The project was a block above me and the crack park was a block below me. How did I make it and she didn't? And so, by the time I left college, I think a lot of my sorority sisters nowadays would even tell you I wanted to either start a nonprofit or work for a nonprofit focused on adolescence and juveniles. Because I think I can empathize with that feeling of the purpose. I think many of our kids struggle when they're sitting there talking about drug use or they're talking about not going to school. I always tell every kid you're invincible until proven otherwise, and the problem is, you're not going to get that proof for a little bit at that age. A lot of these kids don't lose their friends that early on. A lot of these kids don't see their life choices. And I will share with them the choices they are making. I always say, open a window. What you're doing is you're closing a door that's five hallways down that you're not going to see. You're talking about juveniles that are using drugs. I had a conversation with a kid the other day about it, and I said, alright, it's not a big deal to you now. You can still do your schoolwork and you can still go to school, but what happens when you get addicted to it, and then your job drug screens you for it, and you can't get off of it long enough to get that drug screen? Well, now this great job that could have made you tons of money, you’re not getting. Or my father, he used drugs growing up, and he drank a whole lot and unfortunately, he passed away at a pretty young age for him and my daughter looking at her, those two are like two peas in a pod when she was a baby, he lost out on that opportunity by the choices he made at that age. And so, I understand why kids can't see it. When you're a mom, and you look at your teenage daughter, and you're like, please don't get pregnant, I know why. I see the exhaustion and how much you have to sacrifice. I had my 20s, so I know how much fun you can have. So, when I see a 19-year-old getting pregnant, I'm like, oh my gosh, you just threw away the best part of your life because you have that freedom. But because they've never experienced it, they don't know. So, it's being able to find those ways to communicate to them as to I get that you don't see the consequences of what could happen, but I'm willing to hold your hand through trying to figure it out.

Randy Wilburn [12:53] Everything that you're saying makes so much sense. Before we started recording where you were saying how one individual spoke to your life and college outside of your sorority sisters, you also mentioned something else earlier, as far as their encouragement. I think there's something about that. I've been told from many of my friends who have pledged, whether fraternity or sorority, a bonding, a sisterhood, or brotherhood that exists where each of you looks out for each other. But you also had a professor who took a liking to you, and that wasn't the same professor you asked about the test. And so, that was a difference-maker as well.

Amanda Childs [13:34] And he's still involved in my life to a degree. It was interesting because I failed my first semester when I got to college. I was like, oh, well, this is just the pattern, this is who I am. And so, that sisterhood was like, no, let's find classes that you can get good grades, so I took a psychology class. And I would say, everybody's got a skill, it's like superpowers. I'm not going to lie. I always use this with kids, but it's true. Everybody's going to get their skill, just like Marvel, right? I think mine is people. I can understand and connect with people. I get told all the time, it's easy to relate to me. I think I figure out people in my head. So, psychology, like, done, I took it. The teacher helped me on my final and helped me get an A. I was like, sold. Well, from there, I've always been interested in criminal justice and law. I took a criminal justice class, and his name was Arthur Chancellor. I took his class, and he was so interesting because the way he taught was more about connecting and associating things. So, from there is when I learned that's the kind of learning style I have. If I can associate what I'm learning with something I know, then it builds this connection to my brain. And so, he would always just make jokes all the time, and he was just very understandable. I would never read a book. I couldn't read books very well. But I would sit in his class and just take notes. And I still have my notebooks to this day from every class I took with him. I studied serial killers, and I worked with him under their Cold Case task force for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation for a little while. And when I looked at him and got close to graduation, I was like, okay, so what do I do now? Because I graduated with psychology and criminal justice as a minor. Psychology was my major. You really can't do a whole lot with psychology, and not even always so much with criminal justice, and I didn't want to be a police officer. And so, I was like, what do I do now because I didn't have direction. It took me a long time to kind of get a solid direction. And he was like, you need to work with people. You need to be an advocate; you can connect with people. And of course, I'm very sarcastic and I have a crazy sense of humor. And so, I looked at him, and I was like, but I don't like people. I don't want to work with people. And he was like, yes; you do, you will do great. And so, from there, he said, work as an advocate. This is a slightly embarrassing story, but very true. I graduated, and I was looking for my first real job as an adult college graduate and found a job at the Advocacy Center. So, I was like, oh, he said, I should be an advocate. That's where I'm going to apply. I did not know what the job was. I cannot lie. And, when you're in college and getting your bachelor's, they show you all these different populations, severe mental illness, developmental disabilities, and I was like, okay, those are the two populations I'm not working with. I don't want to work with the severely mentally ill, and I don't want to work with developmental disabilities. They were intimidating and I didn't feel prepared for it. Well, the Advocacy Center was for developmentally disabled adults living in facilities. And so, I applied for it, I got the job and then I go in, and I'm like, oh, that's what this is. So, if that puts in perspective how much I did not have a vision at that point. In college, I told a lot of my sorority sisters that I wanted to work with adolescents, and I think everything happens for a reason. So, I think I went through all these adult services and worked to get prepared to work for this. I think had I started this kind of work in my 20s, I don't think I would have been able to do it with the security I have now. You have got to find yourself first. I got a great experience from the Advocacy Center and then built on from there, which brought me up. I got married to my college sweetheart, and then he got a job with Walmart - RW: a small company up the road. Typical Northwest Arkansas love story. And so, we moved up here, and I worked in a residential place for adults with severe mental illness and loved it. From there, it just grew. And then I started working in schools, then CSI came up here, and they were looking for jobs. I knew some of the people at the juvenile probation office, and they called me, and they said, hey, we think you might be interested in this kind of job. And I was like, okay, so I looked more into it. I applied and did my interview and it is the pinnacle of when I was 20. I knew what I wanted to do. I didn't know how to do it, but I knew I wanted it. So, when they came around, I was like, I'm sold.

Randy Wilburn [18:06] So it's almost like all those hours and time you put in doing what you did really prepared you perfectly for this moment in time and been able to step up. So, tell me, CSI, Community Service, Inc, I'm surprised that they're just now coming in Northwest Arkansas. So, what's that all about? Talk a little bit about CSI, their evolution of coming up here because they have been around for a while.

Amanda Childs [18:29] They started in 1958 in the Conway area. How they got started is literally in the title. There was a judge, Audrey Strait, who felt that there needed to be more services for these kids who are going through the juvenile justice system to really combat that. And so, I think it was like four other people got with her and focused on just doing their community service to help these kids. And from there, they have stayed in that area. They are in smaller offices. They have Russellville, one of their bigger offices, but it was primarily focused on addressing the kids’ needs going through the juvenile justice system to reduce these numbers. So many kids were getting locked up for making really crazy decisions sometimes. But to address the needs for probation and what are some alternative services they could do. And so, from there, they have grown. We have got Morrilton. We've got Russellville. We have a few satellite offices where we have juvenile justice case managers stationed. Our officers are also working as probation officers in some courts, but it is focused on the juvenile justice system. And in the last year, DYS has a contract to help provide services for kids going through probation or just going through that system in general, and there's always a provider assigned to that contract. Previously, it's been Youthbridge this past year. The contract came available and that's when CSI jumped on this opportunity, and I think it was a great decision. But, coming from the Central Arkansas area, I think they knew that there was very much a need up here, but I think now they realize there's so much more. I deal mainly with the four main ladies on the executive team, but the entire executive staff is so dedicated and so driven to help where we provide services where no one gets a bill. So, if kids come to see us, there's no bill. They never get billed. They have their foundation to help support the agency. Just the way the whole agency is built is a great model.

Randy Wilburn [20:50] So, are you guys getting both private and public funding?

Amanda Childs [20:58] Yes. So, we have the DYS contract that helps more so with the kids going through probation, and that's focused on providing them case management services and their families’ case management services classes.

Randy Wilburn [21:08] That's all much needed, though.

Amanda Childs [21:09] The kids are struggling, so we started an after-school program- bless those teachers who have to bounce back and forth. We offer a boys’ council group, and we work with the probation office to establish what services are needed. We also provide mental health services. And I think those are just two really strong areas. As we grow more up here, we're going to do more fundraising and help get some support to deliver these programs to more than just one small population. It's still a small population, but we want to grow and provide all these services. Preventative services are very much needed.

Randy Wilburn [22:03] And you mentioned mental health, which is another thing that goes undiagnosed for a long time. And I would have to imagine that with the age of social media and the age span that has exacerbated the mental health challenges that a lot of young people face, and they go into adulthood, not dealing with those challenges. And so, they don't become well-adjusted young adults. They are carrying major baggage with them.

Amanda Childs [22:29] And I think one of the things, especially with social media, and I will do activities with my kids to help them understand. If you've got this medium-range, you're used to dealing with emotions; you’re going to have the good, you're going to have the bad. Well, if you have a bad emotion, you've got to deal with it. I can get on Snapchat and send 12 people a message that my life sucks and my parents are so mean to me, and I’m immediately going to get feedback, no, you’re loved. And so, they're not dealing with the fact that your parents probably do not love you; it probably just is the issue that you all got into a fight because they expected something and you didn't want to deliver, or they expected something and you didn't understand. Nowadays, kids are looking outside to justify their being, so social media is making it so much harder. If my friend can post up all these beautiful pictures of something, I wish I had that.

Randy Wilburn [23:26] It's the wrong feedback loop and that's the challenge. We look at Instagram and everybody posts. I try to put my best pictures out there on Instagram. I never put the pictures out when I have sleep in my eyes, or booger hanging out of my nose or anything like that. It's highly curated is the word.

Amanda Childs [23:46] I've got teenage girls that will spend Twenty minutes doing makeup just to post one picture on Instagram. What are you doing? Oh, I should have gone to school today, but I just wanted to stay home and do my makeup. Even the value system has been completely deterred. Kids don't know how to deal with these things, and I think right now, especially, you have parents who are working two jobs, who are dedicated to improving their lives to being able to provide for their kids, and you've got this population of kids who feels they can do it. I can handle it. Even our academics in our school systems are trying to do their best. You have a higher bar for these kids and to a degree, I see a lot of confusion and resentment growing in our youth. They don't understand why things are the way they are. We are past the generation of well because I told you so. People will still try to use it and that's when kids are like, I don't want to hear that. And so, I have to say a lot of what I end up doing is what I like to call translation. Well, your mom just said this, what she's meaning is this and the kids saying this, but what he's really trying to get across is this. When kids are aggressive at home or upset at home, and you have the one parent that's like, why are they doing this to me. I feel like they are coming after me. I have to look at parents and say, what I hear when you say that your kid trusts you as mean as they can be, they know you're not going to leave, and that's a hard thing for parents to grasp because it's exhausting. It's exhausting to have your kid yell at you and tell you how much they hate you and how horrible you are. When you get that kid one-on-one, they're like, but my parent won't leave me as everybody else has left me. I can be as mean as I want to my mom, and she's not going to leave and I don't know where else to put that anger. Parents who are like, I'm getting attacked. It's a lot of having to translate behavior and words.

Randy Wilburn [25:45] So, as I look at the list of things that CSI is doing, you do prevention and education, therapeutic foster care, day treatment, substance abuse services, mental health services, and as you said earlier, juvenile justice. So, are all these utilized in this area, or are you finding that some of the services you offer are needed more than others?

Amanda Childs [26:11] We just opened this office in Rogers in July of last year? We mainly focus on the juvenile justice case management piece and the mental health piece; therapeutic foster care is definitely needed everywhere. When you think of training families when you think of therapeutic foster, you look at these kids from home to home or kids coming from an unstructured environment that are now being placed in a structured environment. They may not have learned appropriate coping skills at a young age, so you may have sexually acting out behavior. The challenge is finding families that have the right tools and the right support. Where we have our therapeutic foster care, Teresa Hamilton is amazing; she does a great job. We will eventually expand up here because it is needed, but that takes a lot of prep and a lot of work. The day's program is outstanding. We don't have it up here, right now, I would say from my experience, just working in those programs, it's a touch and go thing. Right now, you have a lot of kids that require services during the day. They need that therapeutic structure. They need to be able to have their timeout time. I would say in this area, our schools have done an exceptional job trying to adapt and use those tools and techniques, but you're still going to have those kids that really struggle. So, when it comes to any day's program, you have to step back and say, when you ever you do it, you've got to have the right staff, the right training, the right support, and finding families that will commit and come in, and it does require a lot of parents. I would say that's probably the biggest challenge right now. Any kid who goes through the juvenile justice system or any kid that is really struggling is also a lot of need from the parents. And if I'm a parent, and I'm trying to work a full-time job, but I have to spend three hours for an intake or two hours for an appointment every other week, and now I've got to go pick up my kid from school to take them to an appointment, it's a lot of demand on the parents. I would say from our programs, we will definitely be expanding. But right now, I think we're trying to take the avenue of what's going to be most reasonable that we're asking of parents too, and where are the other gaps? So, with a day's program, you're dealing with kids that struggle with day-to-day behavior and having to learn groups? I have talked to some of the school districts that say, how can we help? Substance abuse is growing here. We offer some services, do assessments, have counseling, and look at adding some groups and some classes, but we're trying to work with the area agencies already here. Where are your gaps? How can we connect? Are there resources we can pull with you? We have been trying to work with The Arkansas Women's Shelter, especially with our domestic cases. When kids get aggressive at home, or there's just a lot of struggle in the home and that's where police are being called. We are trying to work more with the shelter to establish what services they are providing. They have been doing some groups in schools, so it may be sharing resources. They have got these kids, so maybe we can help support doing a group in the school or just try to connect. We are trying to connect with the CAC up here to see if we've got these situations and how can we work in conjunction with you? How can we support these needs?

Randy Wilburn [29:30] What does CAC stands for?

Amanda Childs [29:32] The Child Advocacy Center. We are in that baby stage of trying to figure out what is all is here and what is needed. Concerning drugs, we've been working with them to see what services can be provided in the schools or what other groups or activities they do to work with them on some projects and try to grow and expand to see where the gaps are.

Randy Wilburn [29:59] So you guys got your work cut out for you. But again, this is not your first walk in the park. So, as you come here and expand, I'm assuming you will be hiring and bringing on some more people and trying to staff out. Are you covering all the four major cities in Northwest Arkansas now, or can you?

Amanda Childs [30:20] When you say four major cities, are you talking about---?

Randy Wilburn [30:22] Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville.

Amanda Childs [30:25] Yes, so we also have an office in Springdale covering Springdale and Fayetteville. They're covering Washington County, and we cover Benton County.

Randy Wilburn [30:32] And that location in Springdale has been open around the same amount of time?

Amanda Childs [30:36] Correct.

Randy Wilburn [30:37] So Springdale for Washington County and Rogers for Benton County. There's a lot to be done up here.

Amanda Childs [30:48] There's definitely a need for a lot of support and services in every area.

Randy Wilburn [30:56] Our society goes as our youth go and I think a lot of our young people right now are in that tweener phase where they don't really know what's going on. We have got so many challenges in our country, in the world in general, I mean, but life is that way, right? There will always be ups and downs, and I think a lot of times as I'm always trying to explain to my kids that every day is not going to be a great day. You’re going to have some challenges. Some days are going to stink; other days are going to be amazing. So, this idea that you want to have it all, all the time, is not sustainable. And I think sometimes we do our young people a disservice if we allow them to believe or walk into that expectation that everything will be okay. There's a great book that I read that says there's trouble that you're going to have all the days of your life. I'm 51, so I'm a little older than you, and I recognize that to be very accurate. So, when young people ask me, what would be one thing that you would tell me, or what would you tell your youthful self when you were 20. And I would just say, be willing to deal with the highs and the lows, right? Because I mean, you're going to have them and there will be a lot of challenges. But, still, I also believe there's always somebody willing to give a helping hand, a supportive ear, and be in a place that is non-judgmental but is more focused on helping you be the best version of yourself. And that's what I believe CSI represents.

Amanda Childs [32:27] I would agree. With a lot of our kids, especially the ones that we see in this office, it's a lot of just allowing them to be fallible and recognizing to the degree that everyone is going to be fallible. But what are you going to do with it, because it is your life? They have got to own the fact that some of these things aren't just happening to them. And I think that's probably the biggest thing that I will see with kids is. It’s hard for them to see the consequences. It’s hard for them to see what's going to happen because they made that choice. If your life is a hallway of 100 doors, they're all open when you're born, but the second you start making this choice, it might close up a door, like seven feet away, but you're not going to see the consequences of it until it's too late. You're not going to understand the difference between the decision you made and I don't see anything happening now, but I noticed that this would happen later. So, it's getting the kids to understand. I love when a kid comes into my office and tells me this is unfair because this is happening, be it a school thing or a parent thing. And I will ask them, okay, what always happens? Is this something you knew was going to happen? Is this something that you expected to happen? And get them to understand that there are patterns, so you know when something will suck. You know, it's coming down the path. You know I don't want to be nagged by adults. Well, what are they nagging you over a, b, and c? Well, then understand, you already have all the answers. Why are you complaining about something that you should be fully aware of, and you are the only person who controls it. If you know that you need to get to school because they're going to keep calling you, go to school, or deal with the fact that they're going to keep calling you. You have to pick a side of the road. I saw something this morning that spoke to me, and it's not everyone is a victim. Sometimes, you really are making choices. You may feel helpless, but that learned helplessness has got to decrease. I tell kids all the time. I can't make it hurt any less, but I can make sure you're not alone while you're hurting. And I think that's just part of it. I can't fix the challenges. I can't make it easier, but I can guarantee you're not alone.

Randy Wilburn [34:35] I think that's a refrain that we need to say early and often, especially with young people and I tell my sons this all the time. I have three boys, 16, 14, and 10. They think they know it all, and I'm like, just slow your roll, don't grow up too fast. It's the same stuff that was told to me. I wanted to grow up really fast. At 16, I thought I knew it all and I wanted to do it all. I recognized that trying to embrace the moment you’re in can sometimes be complex and extremely difficult for young people.

Amanda Childs [35:13] And it's learning that delayed gratification. What is the purpose? When kids don't understand the purpose, how are you going to understand the purpose? When I look at a kid who's 16 and pregnant, in her mind, she's thinking, I've got this. I've watched my younger siblings, or I've done this. She may be scared, and she may be intimidated, but for the most part, she can't recognize the life she gave up because she's never experienced that life. And so, when you have your kids look at you and say, I don't understand this, or that's not how I see it. Well, that's because I can look at my kids and say, I remember when I was boy crazy, or I remember when I didn't want to go to school either because I experienced that. Your kid is never going to understand that. It's like if a computer programmer sat in here and said, you should know that, my response would be, no, I didn't learn that. I didn't experience that. This is not even like a new thing; this is how it's always been. When your parents would look at you, like, trust me, I know how it's going to turn out. You're like, no, you don't know and then 20 years later, you're like, they knew and I wish they hadn't. But that's just it. It's trying to explain something to them that they don't understand. If I had only spoken English, and you start talking Japanese, it might take me a while to understand it. It's giving them that patience to recognize what can you do? What is within your rights to do? What is reasonable and what isn't?

Randy Wilburn [36:37] And it's so funny, as I'm sitting here, you think about that, and like, I tell my kids this, which is very true for young men. Young men mature at a slower pace than women do. So that 16-year-old girl may be the equivalent of a 20-year-old boy. And so, when I tell young 20-year-olds, I'm talking to guys, I'm like, you still got ways to go. I don't think I was 30 until I was---. I was fully mature. I wasn’t acting crazy, but I didn't understand until I hit 30. And there's something to that, just the way that the male brain develops.

Amanda Childs [37:16] And I think it's that way for everybody. And when you grow up, that's just it. When I grew up, I very much wanted to talk to people and listen to their stories. I would talk to grown adults who had poor boundaries, God bless them, and they would tell me all about their lives, the drama and the daylight ages, the Daytime Emmy’s version of their lives. I had that opportunity to learn a lot because I talked to people and because I came across as more mature. I had a grown woman once told me, and I had to have been probably 15 or 16 about the domestic violence she was experiencing. I was working with men who were diagnosed with AIDS and homeless. I really did want to learn everybody's story. I didn't know why but it really paid off, so I was more aware. But of course, I grew up with a lot more challenges than my kids are growing up with right now. And so, the fear is, because I grew up this hard way, I learned a whole lot. I can adapt. My kids aren’t going to grow up in that. Are they going to get it? But you have to go through a hard time to be a level-headed person. And you don't. My oldest daughter has a lot of good skills and my youngest daughter has a lot of good skills and they are so completely different on two ends of the spectrum. But it is just me looking at them and saying, whatever challenges come your way, I need you to just continue to remind yourself that you can do it. It's going to be hard. You're going to cry. You're not going to like it. You're going to have to make hard decisions at some point. If you don't make a hard decision today, your hardest decision will come later on. You're just delaying it and making it harder if you don't do it now. And so, it is teaching them those skills, or do you want to take it now, or do you want to keep holding out and getting them to learn that because they are a challenge.

Randy Wilburn [39:07] Indeed. I think that's a great place where we can wrap this up. You bring up some great points. I think that anybody listening to this who has a young person that may be going through some challenges and if you as a parent are challenged or vexed by maybe your inability to reach them uniquely, that's why programs like CSI are available. Often, we don't realize the support that we have in our community. So, I appreciate you coming on the podcast to tell us a little bit about your story, which I think was hugely interesting, as well as CSIs. Because I believe also kids want to know that whoever I'm talking to is not just selling me a bill of goods and they haven't been there. I need to know how to swim if I'm going to be a lifeguard, and that means I had to put myself in the water and learn and go through that and you've gone through your lifeguarding lessons and become a lifeguard of sorts. And so, I think it's important when young people see that, then they gravitate towards you or anyone else that's in that same situation a lot more than people that are just like, oh, well get over it you're just young and you will grow out of it. Sometimes they don't and that's the problem, and that's what we're trying to avoid.

Amanda Childs [40:20] Kids see the experience, whether they recognize it or not. I believe it is the biggest thing with kids. You don't have to be right. You don't have to be wrong, but at least be authentic. If you don't know, you don't know. And I would say one of the biggest hurdles I haven't had as a parent, even despite my experience, was with my oldest daughter. I would give her this advice, right? So, I have tons of kids that I talk to, and I give them advice. They're like, that makes sense and they love it. I will give my daughter the same advice and she would never listen to it. So, even though you may be saying exactly what your kid needs to hear, sometimes kids need to hear it from somewhere else. Because they also have their bias, I'm not going to buy into what you're saying because you're my parent.

Randy Wilburn [41:08] I used to joke. If you're a parent, you sound like Charlie Brown's teacher to your kid. That’s all that they hear. It's the ultimate Jedi mind trick and for whatever reason, it does work. So, listen, how do people reach out to you if they want to connect with you, connect with CSI, and maybe they need help, or perhaps they have a family member that’s having some struggles with their child. What's the best way for them to connect with you guys?

Amanda Childs [41:39] I would say going on to our Facebook page, or our web page, which is at calm, or find us on Facebook, at Community Service, Inc. and reach out to us. That way is probably the best way to get a hold of us. I know coming up we've got NWA Gives, so any kind of support we can get there. We are always looking for it because the more support we get, the more we can give.

Randy Wilburn [42:05] That’s in April, right?

Amanda Childs [42:06] I think it's April 8th.

Randy Wilburn [42:08] This will come out sometime around then. But we'll certainly be putting out a plug for a lot of organizations. We've had a single parent’s scholarship fund of NWA and many other programs on this show. So we’re certainly going to be plugging all of them and trying to gin up some support. This is a giving community.

Amanda Childs [42:28] I agree. Those are the best ways to get a hold of us. And if it's an individual parent that's just really struggling, they are always welcome to call our office.

Randy Wilburn [42:39] What's that office number?

Amanda Childs [42:40] 479-278-7028?

Randy Wilburn [42:43] All of this will be in our Show Notes to find out information about Amanda and her team here in Rogers and contact details for the Springdale office, then just information in general about CSI. You can read about them and learn about all the programs they offer and things coming to Northwest Arkansas very soon. So, when you're not doing this and get to let your hair down here in Northwest Arkansas because this podcast is about Northwest Arkansas, what do you like to do, maybe pre-pandemic? My last flight was actually March 13, so it's been almost a year since I've been on a plane since I've gone anywhere. It's been crazy. Everything has changed, but prior to all of that, what did you do to have fun here in Northwest Arkansas?

Amanda Childs [43:46] I'm such a workhorse, but it's been a little bit of everything. I think what I appreciate about being up here is I did grow up in a pretty crime-ridden area. And up here, it's warm, it's welcoming, and it's safe. Everyone is so nice and accommodating, and helpful. My family and I would just go out here and there and we just dabble. We're dabblers. We don't go on trails and we don't do certain things, but we may randomly one day go on a trail.

Randy Wilburn [44:19] At least you have the option to do that.

Amanda Childs [44:22] Exactly. And that I would say is probably the piece, that ADHD last minute impulsive decision of let's do this and you can. You can go to the lake, on a trail, walk around the square, go downtown, Rogers, or you can listen to music. I think my husband I love the food the most.

Randy Wilburn [44:41] So, what's your favorite restaurant? That’s a hard one, right?

Amanda Childs [44:45] That’s an insanely tough one because my husband and I have a tradition for our wedding anniversary. We don't give gifts; we just pick a new restaurant we have never gone to before. We just save a little money pot, and then we just order a bunch of random stuff and just enjoy.

Randy Wilburn [45:00] Where did you go on your last anniversary?

Amanda Childs [45:02] Where did we go? I know we have been to the Preacher’s Son.

Randy Wilburn [45:07] Have you been to the Preacher’s Son with Matt Cooper or the new chef, Neil?

Amanda Childs [45:12} It would have been three years ago.

Randy Wilburn [45:14] Okay, so that was with Matt Cooper. And now they have a new chef, Neil Gray, and he's been on the podcast as well. Both amazing chefs, totally different types of cooking. Neil Gray, the new chef at the Preacher’s Son, still does some gluten-free items. I recently went there that's why I'm speaking about them. There are a lot of places. I would highly recommend that you go back there when you get a chance. But there are so many great restaurants.

Amanda Childs [45:39] I believe we went to Bluefin last year, and then I think we went to The Hive the year before.

Randy Wilburn [45:44] They are all good restaurants.

Amanda Childs [45:46] We go even to dive bars too. It's just trying something new, and we have a long list that's pending.

Randy Wilburn [45:54] Have you been to Maxine's Taproom down in Fayetteville? So you go to check it out.

Amanda Childs [45:58] Most of the restaurants we have gone to are in Bentonville and Rogers. We haven't even made it down to Fayetteville yet, but we're working on it. We are going to work our way down slowly.

Randy Wilburn [46:08] And that's the thing I like about being here is that even though when I moved here from Boston, we'd love driving around because I don't mind driving up to Bentonville to eat, I don’t care. I can eat just as well in Fayetteville. But like Leverett Lounge and Maxine's Taproom run and owned by the same people, Hannah Withers, a shout out to her. Maxine's Taprooms a great speakeasy bar that I would highly encourage you to check out and even I know this spring, as we're still coming out of this pandemic, they have outdoor seating, and so it's cool. Leverett Lounge has this Korean fried chicken that is absolutely insane. Have you been to Havana here?

Amanda Childs [46:51] Yes. It's interesting when you say being from Boston and driving to Fayetteville and Bentonville. There were a few bits of a culture shock when I moved up here, and I would say that is the biggest one when you have people who are like, if you live in Bentonville or you live in Fayetteville, you don't drive in between. I don't ever drive like 25 minutes to visit a place that I would usually visit in my hometown. That’s a quick drive. My school took me probably 45 minutes to drive to every morning. It's so bizarre to me. I'm here, and I'm like, oh, it's a trip down to Fayetteville.

Randy Wilburn [47:25] Yeah. It's like, oh, I got to pack a lunch, it's a long way. Well, listen, we really appreciate this. Amanda Childs. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast for sharing your story. Your transparency is a breath of fresh air for sure. And what you guys are doing here at CSI, Community Service, Inc is important. And so, I want to support you in any way that I can. Anybody listening to this, if you are really moved by what Amanda is doing, we will make sure all of her contact information is in the Show Notes. You can reach out to her if you want to give to this organization because it does sound like they're doing incredible things. This is probably a good organization to sow into. So, I want to encourage you guys, all my listeners, to do that because my listeners are givers too. We appreciate you but thank you so much for coming on the show.

Amanda Childs [48:11] Thank you for having me.

Randy Wilburn [48:12] Well, folks, there is another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast. To learn more about us or to read or download the Show Notes from today's episode, you can even get the transcript of all that Amanda and I just talked about. Visit You can listen to this podcast and sign up for a free newsletter to keep up with us and all things NWA. Sign up today! You can subscribe to the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast wherever you listen to it, and please consider rating and reviewing us on Apple podcast. As a reminder, our podcast comes out every Monday. I'm your host Randy Wilburn and we will see you back here next week for another episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. Peace.

IANWA Open [49:03] We hope you enjoyed this episode of I Am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcast can be found. For Show Notes or more information on becoming a guest, visit We will see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas.

About the Show:                          

We recently sat down with Amanda Childs of Community Service Inc. (CSI), a 501(c)3 youth and family services organization serving youth 18 and younger. They were founded in 1958 by Conway County Circuit Judge Audrey Strait, CSI, to “combat juvenile delinquency” directly and to minimize the rate of delinquency through “serving other segments of the population who were in need.”

Some of CSI’s services include prevention and education, therapeutic foster care, day treatment, substance abuse services, mental health services, and juvenile justice.

Listen in as Amanda shares how her challenging upbringing inspired her to become an advocate for youth in need.

After graduating with a major in psychology and a minor in criminal justice, Amanda was initially at a loss about what she wanted to do out of school. Through the encouragement of one of her professors, she went down the path that eventually led her to CSI.

Amanda explains her role at CSI and how the nonprofit has evolved to address the needs of children and teenagers in today’s world, such as taking into account the risks of social media to their mental, emotional, and social development.

All of this and more on this episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast.

●  [02:43] Amanda’s superhero origin story and how she came to work for CSI

●  [18:30] What led CSI to expand to Northwest Arkansas

●  [22:29] How social media has exacerbated mental health challenges among the   youth

●  [25:47] CSI’s most-needed services by location

●  [31:27] The power of allowing yourself to be fallible

●  [40:24] Embracing authenticity as the key to growth

Important Links and Mentions on the Show*:

·         Community Service, Inc Email

·         Community Service, Inc Website

·         Community Service, Inc Facebook

·         Contact CSI at 479-418-3404

This episode is sponsored by*:

Signature Bank of Arkansas –  Signature Bank was founded here in Northwest Arkansas in 2005. Their focus is personal and community banking. When you bank with a community bank, you’re investing in local businesses, local entrepreneurs, local charities, and the causes close to home. Signature Bank has worked hard to earn its tagline, “Community Banking at its Best.”

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Signature Bank of Arkansas is a Member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.  

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