For the kids

Bert Wells

Photo By David Robert

Bert Wells retired after 23 years in the army and came to Reno to be an operations officer for a start-up company that failed nine days after he and his wife closed on their home. Kids Kottage happened to be looking for an administrative director. Having always enjoyed people, kids and leadership roles, Wells applied for the job. A staff of 80 people, he thought, would mesh well with his military training. Wells’ staff works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year caring for a maximum of 62 children. Wells is impressed with the charity of the Washoe County community and says Kids Kottage has never had to pay money for Christmas gifts. The holidays are rough, though, as kids are thinking more about being home with their families.

In what type of situation does a child come to Kids Kottage?

Obviously a variety of situations occur, but the basic rule is that children are either abused or neglected or alleged to be so.

What’s Kids Kottage’s mission?

We’re the emergency care facility in Washoe County. We have evolved to a mission statement which we say is to care for kids, aged one-day-old to 18, in the most positive and homelike environment we can produce. As far as how long they stay here, it could be anywhere from a couple hours to—the longest we ever had a child—14 months.

How similar is the care to that of an orphanage?

I’ve never seen an orphanage, so I don’t know. Orphanages have a bad reputation—although some people may say they aren’t so bad—so I don’t use the word. When I say our mission is to be as positive and home-like as we can be, that’s exactly what we want to do, but we’re not a home. It’s not an institution where I don’t want to personalize things. We attempt to personalize everything. Let me give you some examples. Every time a child has a birthday, we have a birthday party for them. Every time a child brings a book form home from Scholastic books, I’ll buy a book for them. Every time a child has a field trip at school, we will pay for the field trip. I know that the schools would take that child on the field trip without paying the money, but what we want to do is have the child bring the money in like everybody else does so that he’s just like everybody else. We have kids that play in Pop Warner football, and we take them to practice every day. We have kids in the chorus at school, so during their Christmas performances, we took a staff member with three or four of the other residents to go watch that child sing.

How does each kid go to school?

They go to the same school that they were going to when they were taken away. That’s done through the transportation department. The buses come here first stop in the morning, last stop in the evening so that the other kids on the bus don’t know that they live here. And they pick up the kids and take them all over the county.

How rough is this on the kids?

All kids respond differently. Most of the older kids would rather be where they were. I’m not sure that in their hearts and underneath that they would, but at least surface-wise. Many of the pre-school age kids walk in and go, ‘Whoa, cool place,’ and they’re out playing. Others will cry for mommy for two weeks. The babies don’t have major issues, although there’s obviously a bonding problem since there’s more than one caregiver, although most of the time the same caregiver will work with the same baby.

How was the gift status this Christmas?

It was wonderful. The community gave us more gifts this year than ever before. Each child had eight to 10 gifts. In all cases where the child can articulate what they want, they got at least one gift they wanted. One lady and her husband actually went out and bought the first desired gift for every child.