MONROE — Nicki Eyler’s JAYDE Project aims to bring change and hope from a tragic death.
Eyler, secretary and past director of the Child Advocacy Network Council of Monroe County, recently unveiled the project to a capacity crowd at the United Way of Monroe and Lenawee counties.
JAYDE is an acronym for Junction for Abused, Young, Defenseless Eyes, but Jayde also was a child. Jayde was just a toddler in Alcona County when she died in 2022 as a result of severe abuse and neglect.
Eyler’s friends became foster parents to Jayde’s two sisters, who now live in Monroe County. Jayde’s sisters were the first beneficiaries of the JAYDE Project.
Eyler has been working on the project since the summer of 2022. It has two goals: Provide a duffel bag of comfort items to children who are removed from unsafe homes and educate adults about abuse and neglect.
“This project is my whole heart,” said Eyler, a mom of three and the marketing and outreach specialist for Monroe County Opportunity Program and The Opportunity Center at the Arthur Lesow Community Center. “It was put together with all of the love and thought that every child deserves. I am so proud of this.”
A duffel bag is key to the JAYDE Project.
“Most children who are being removed from a home are given a garbage bag to put their things in,” Eyler said.
Inside the bag are several comfort items, including a stuffed animal.
“Each animal has a sentimental message on its shirt. They are soft, weighted and smell like lavender. They can be warmed up in the microwave as well,” Eyler said.
There’s also a book in the bag.
“This book ‘Do You Have a Secret?’ talks about the importance of when to tell secrets to a trusted adult,” Eyler said.
A flow ring is for calming.
“This devise is used to roll up and down the arm in a smooth flowing motion. It actually feels quite nice on the skin and can also be a nice distraction for children,” Eyler said.
Eyler is packing the bags herself and giving them to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“My contact at DHHS will let me know when they are getting low on supplies and I will replenish,” Eyler said.
The second goal of the JAYDE Project is education for adults.
“The goal is to remove the stigma of making a CPS phone call,” Eyler said. “So many calls are not made because folks are afraid that if they’re wrong, the kids will be taken from their families. We need to get the message across that a thorough investigation has to be done before a removal can happen. It is never the first course of action. It is always better to report and be wrong, than not report and be right.”
Training adults is part of the JAYDE Project. Adults will learn, for example, how to make anonymous reports of suspected abuse.
“We will also train on the importance of body safety education and mandated reporter training, depending on who the audience is. There will also be some amazing resources from The Mama Bear Effect about body safety and how to talk to your children about it,” Eyler said. “I will also educate on available resources in the community, such as Gabby’s Grief Center, DHHS, the Ennis Center, Community Mental Health, etc.”
November is National Adoption Month and Child Safety & Protection Month. Eyler chose Nov. 10, Forget-Me-Not-Day, to unveil the JAYDE Project.
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“The day is very significant to me personally,” Eyler said. “My grandmother, Betty Hale, passed away on this day in 2018. She was an advocate for children, she was adopted herself and she fostered many children over the years that I was growing up. So, I am honoring her as well.”
Donations to the JAYDE Project can be dropped off or mailed to the United Way of Monroe and Lenawee Counties, 216 N. Monroe St., 48162. Checks should be made payable to the Child Advocacy Network of Monroe County with JAYDE in the memo line. Cash donations also will be accepted.
“All donations will be used to continue purchasing supplies for the project,” Eyler said.
To report suspected abuse, call 855-444-3911.
— Contact reporter Suzanne Nolan Wisler at email@example.com.