This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Book supports Plain abuse awareness

Jeanette Harder had not even received a printed copy of her new book when she learned 740 fresh-off-the-press copies had been handed out at a conference.


Harder, co-founder of Dove’s Nest, authored For the Sake of a Child: Love, Safety and Abuse in Our Plain Communi­ties (Ridgeway Publishing, 2019) with Allen Hoover, a “horse-and-buggy” Old Order Mennonite.

The planning committee of the Anabaptist Awareness Symposium on Sexual Abuse — which took place in November in Ephrata, Pa. — heard about the book and wanted to get its message of child protection out to Plain communities.

The timing worked well. The donor for the books said, “We are enormously grateful to the hard work of [the authors]. There were likely hundreds more business owners or individuals sitting in the audience that day who would have jumped at the chance to support the cause if they had the opportunity.”

In addition to the donated copies, 1,500 copies sold in just the first week. Within a month, the publisher issued a second printing of 2,000 copies. And within three months, it needed to go to a third printing as Amish and Old Order Mennonite leaders across the U.S. ordered hundreds of copies to distribute to families in their communities.

Harder and Hoover met at Mennonite World Conference’s 2015 assembly in Harrisburg, Pa. Teaming up for the book project surprised them both, but each knew the need was there and God was leading them.

Hoover said when they first met he wondered how much they had in common and how they would trust each other.

“But there were things we did have in common,” he said. “We were both involved in our communities as liaisons with [state agencies in child abuse situations]. And we both had a passion to keep the children of our communities safe.”

They worked it out

The authors agree one of the book’s strengths is that it was written collaboratively by someone inside the Plain community and someone from the outside.

“God has been with us, and now, almost three years later, the book is in the hands of my people,” Hoover said.

“In our first conversation about writing a book together,” Harder added, “Allen asked me what we would do when we disagreed. And I said, ‘We’ll work it out.’ And that’s just what we did.”

The book’s intended audience is Amish and Old Order Men­nonite parents. The book is short, full of stories and empowers readers to gain positive parenting skills, recognize and report abuse and keep children safe.

Chapter topics include types of abuse and neglect, recognizing and reporting abuse, preventing abuse, getting help and the roles of social services.

The story of Christian Aid Ministries mission worker Jeriah Mast abusing boys in Haiti, a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a recent article in Cosmopolitan have all brought these issue to the forefront both outside and within Plain communities in the past year.

Shared goals

Dove’s Nest also offers professional cultural awareness trainings for social service systems and workers to relate effectively with Plain communities. It is one of the only organizations that offer these in-person and online trainings about Plain community faith, culture and strategies for keeping Amish and Old Order Mennonite youth safe.

Trainings help participants prepare to conduct investigations and create safety plans, connect individuals to services and recruit and support foster and adoptive homes in conservative communities.

“We may do things differently as conservative people, but we still have the same goals,” said one Plain community member of the trainings. “We want to make sure our loved ones are safe.”

Since 2015, Harder has led 12 Plain community cultural awareness trainings for more than 425 participants representing at least 94 agencies.

This year, Dove’s Nest brought on an additional speaker — Charles Jantzi, a professor at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. — to provide these trainings. He has served as a family and individual therapist for more than 30 years and worked with members of Plain communities.

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