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“Children of the Manse”

April 21, 2010

By Brandi Smith

EUGENE, Ore. — April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, an opportunity to educate people about a crime that happens all too often.

In Lane County alone, more than a thousand children are living in foster care because their parents cannot or will not protect them. It’s a life most of us don’t know anything about. But a local author is giving people a look at what life is like for foster children.

Lewis Luchs is a distinguished retiree, a former diplomat and a published author. But he comes from humble beginnings, documented in his memoir, Children of the Manse.

“It’s a story about four children who are abused or neglected, seriously so. We were left together for days at a time. I was five years old, caring for three younger siblings,” said Luchs.

Before long, the state stepped in and put the three boys and one girl into a county children’s home.

“It was pretty grim. It’s like Oliver Twist and Charles Dickens,” he said.

In the book, Luchs describes the home in detail. It was an environment where boys and girls were separated and where the children couldn’t speak during meals.

“We were just warehoused. We were just there,” he said.

Then a social worker came on the scene. She was scouting local children’s homes to find a daughter for a local pastor and his wife and thought Lewis’ little sister Janey was a perfect fit.

“Then she discovers that Janey has three older brothers, so she decides she’s going to present all four of us to the Luchs and see what will happen. And what would happen is marvelous,” said Luchs. “Our lives changed overnight.”

Lewis describes it as almost a kind of real-life fairy tale. It’s an example of what good parents like Lewis’ mother can do to help children who some people consider a lost cause.

“She said it took a year before I would accept her hugs. It took two years before I would return them. I was a badly wounded child, but you can recover,” he said.

That’s the message Lewis hopes readers will take away from Children of the Manse, that no child is beyond help. “It’s a book of hope,” he said.

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