The BDS Story
WRITTEN BY HELEN HINDMAN
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the HELPERS. You will always find people who are HELPING.'" -Fred Rogers
Welcome to Brightening Dark Spaces. We are helpers. We are changers. We bring light to the child welfare system.
Our story can be summed up in this: when we align our hearts with the heart of the Father, receiving His vision and walking it out, mighty change will be enacted. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Without a vision the people perish." I'm convinced that when we partner with God's vision and bring His light into the dark spaces of this broken world, our hearts are the fullest.
As the older sister of two former foster children, I developed a huge heart for the child welfare system and all those involved. My family and I would attend my sisters' weekly supervised visitations with their biological family members, spending time in the Brazos County Child Protective Services/Department of Family and Protective Services office visitation spaces. Seeing the condition of these spaces (bad atmosphere, dark, gloomy, ant-infested, and in desperate need of new books, toys, and art supplies) and knowing that hundreds of children occupy these spaces on a regular basis, I knew that something had to change. I began to realize that atmosphere matters, especially for children who have experienced all kinds of trauma-----abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect, domestic violence, the effects of drug abuse, the impacts of alcohol overdose, the heartache of parental incarceration, unstable family and parental units, insecurity, fear, and separation. Often, atmosphere dictates our experiences in spaces and the memories left behind us. I soon began to learn that children were not only in these spaces for regular supervised visitations, but children often came to these spaces following their removal from their home. Clearly, these spaces carry weight beyond what we can comprehend. My heart was so grieved because I so strongly believe that EVERY child in the child welfare system is worthy of being in spaces where they feel safe, loved, and comfortable, even if that space is located in a government office.
A simple truth: Jesus is the Light. He turns “the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.” He is “the light (that) shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it.” He says, “I am the Light of the World.” Jesus "uncovers the deeps of the darkness and brings deep darkness to light.” When we emulate Jesus, we bring light. Anywhere the presence of God is WILL be subject to change.
So it started with Brazos County. When beginning the refurbishment project at the Brazos County Child Protective Services/Department of Family and Protective Services office, I prayed that God would put a pull on hearts to give out of the generosity of His own. Raising funds was my first step to change. In only a week of fundraising, I raised much more than I had set out to raise. God promises in Ephesians 3:20 that He will do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." I learned to live with great expectation that God will multiply resources for His Kingdom purposes. We completed the Brazos County project on April 23, 2022 (my 17th birthday).
Following our first project, I realized the major need of similar projects across Texas, and actually all over the nation. In summer of 2022, Brightening Dark Spaces became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. In October of 2022, we completed our second project.
In Summer of 2023, we completed our third and largest project Brightening Dark Spaces WACO. We raised over $25,000 and refurbished many spaces at two separate locations in Waco. We grew the Brightening Dark Spaces Team, having 30+ volunteers serving alongside us in Waco. We began partnering with other organizations, businesses, and churches. We were generously provided a matching donor. Brightening Dark Spaces WACO was marked by growth, learning, and establishment as an organization.
Along the journey, our aim broadened from reducing trauma of children to also blessing CPS/DFPS and biological parents within the system. We are creating spaces where biological parents have the opportunity to thrive with their children, having everything they need to care for their child and giving them the ability to succeed during supervised visitations. In addition, we are changing the perception of CPS/DFPS by creating spaces that send a message to their clients saying "WE ARE FOR YOU. We want you to thrive during visitations!" The goal of CPS/DFPS is reunification, and Brightening Dark Spaces aims to assist CPS/DFPS in that goal, ensuring that biological parents have every resource to get their children back.
We believe that Brightening Dark Spaces is just taking off. We pray that God would use us to create trauma-informed spaces in countless Child Protective Services/Department of Family and Protective Services office spaces.