Profile: Elaine Spector
As a tomboy with a stern Greek father, Attorney Elaine Spector knew growing up that she would need to be tough if she wanted to make it in a male-dominated world. She was a bright girl with a voice to express herself and a love for math. She wished to follow in the footsteps of her father and become an engineer, but also had a knack for analysis and a love for the law. During her junior year of high school, she learned that she could merge these two passions into one career in patent law.
Now working for the firm Harrity & Harrity, Elaine spends her days negotiating patents for a diverse clientele. She is a whiz in her field and has been published in multiple prestigious journals for her work with intellectual property law. As No More Stolen Childhoods worked to rebrand itself and produce videos, manuals, and other products, the organization sought Elaine out for advice. In working with her, NMSC’s board members soon realized that Elaine was an asset even beyond her legal expertise.
Elaine really admires the justice lens through which NMSC functions, and how a sense of hope and healing is at the center of the conversation around childhood sexual abuse that the organization is trying to start. Partnered with this sense of justice is the instinct to protect, which Elaine attributes to the “Mama Bear” aspect that she and other female board members bring to the metaphorical table.
Like her father taught her, there is a certain element of toughness that comes with protecting both her own children and others’. Like any mother, she is willing to bare her claws in order to fight for the rights and innocence of today’s youth. But of course, this “Mama Bear” comes with a soft side too.
In addition to her professional justice endeavors, Elaine, together with her family, also volunteers a few times a year at her church to spend time with children with disabilities. For entire evenings, Elaine and her family spread love and care to these children through various activities such as movies, games, and ats and crafts while simultaneously lifting the burden of childcare from their parents.
This aspiration of creating a nurturing community for children, whether they are her own or not, is something that is central to Elaine’s life. Her empathy for families that face challenges on whatever scale is immense, and is a source of inspiration for her to also do better. Whether it is through her professional work as an attorney or a giving member of her community, Elaine always strives to make an impact in others’ lives and impart some goodness into the world.
Profile: Derek Dewitt, Boys & Girls Clubs
Though it is the third tier on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and is preceded by physiological needs and safety, Derek Dewitt believes that tending to one’s sense of belonging is fundamental to one’s well-being, and has significant effects on one’s ability to function biologically and feel a sense of safety.
Derek is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford and Cecil counties. He lives in Perryville, MD and works closely with No More Stolen Childhoods and other partnering organizations in order to promote child welfare within the state.
The Boys & Girls Club is a youth development organization providing out of school programming for kids ages 6-18. Its programs focus on character and leadership development, academic support, and healthy living. As long as you are in school and working towards a high school diploma, you are welcome to become a member of the club. Membership for an entire school year is only $20, which gives kids the opportunity to pay by themselves with their self-earned money.
When I asked Derek about the importance of having spaces like the Boys & Girls Club, his answer was straightforward. “Because they don’t have it otherwise,” he explained, “and I think the alternative is bleak.”
Outside of their school environments, a lot of children do not have the opportunities for connectivity with other kids and adult mentors that are plentiful in the classroom. But life at the Boys & Girls club is different: here, kids are able to foster senses of belong, community, and family with one another. They are able to get the support that they may be lacking in other areas of their lives and receive the encouragement to better themselves. Here, they are made to understand that there is a place that can be a safe haven for them.
Derek strongly believes in the minimization of trauma which is at the core of what No More Stolen Childhoods aims to do on a daily basis. In making childhood sexual abuse a tangible, visible problem, NMSC helps to educate BGC front-line staff and other mandatory reporters about what to look for in children who are suffering from this type of abuse. Derek sees it as the utmost importance for these responsible adults to know how to properly address and respond to CSA.
Derek’s biggest hope is for child welfare to be prioritized by adults. It is not enough for individuals to think that it would be nice for it to be prioritized, but recognize that it must be. It is crucial that we address the challenges that kids face, for confronting them is the answer to all of their other issues. In this way, in this cultivation of a secure sense of belonging, we can raise a kinder and more responsible generation.