This is a reprint of an article that was published in the St. Cloud Times 02/15/04. St. Cloud is approximately 35 miles north-west of Zimmerman.
Stearns County sheriff’s deputies have another tool to help children deal with trauma: Binky Blankets.
The blankets, which are called binkies, are made by volunteers and donated to the organization that hands them out, the Binky Patrol. The sheriff’s department received its first binkies last week and will begin distributing them, Sheriff John Sanner said.
Deputies, and many other Central Minnesota law enforcement officers, already give donated stuffed animals to children. Stearns County will use the binkies in conjunction with the stuffed animals, Sanner said.
“Young children are victims in the truest sense of the word,” Sanner said. “They often have little or no responsibility for the situation they have to deal with.”
The blankets will be given, for example, when a child’s parents are arrested or a child is taken into protective custody by the county, Sanner said. Sanner didn’t know how many stuffed animals the department gave to children last year, but he estimated the number to be in the hundreds.
“They’re used to help comfort the children and provide some sense of security and safety,” he said.
Stearns County is one of many departments statewide that has started to use binkies to provide that sense of security to children.
Other departments include the Sherburne and Wright counties sheriffs’ departments and police departments in Maple Grove, Elk River and Princeton, according to the Binky Patrol’s Web site.
Cindi Rose, the area coordinator for the Zimmerman-based North Star chapter of Binky Patrol, said her chapter started about two years ago. No chapter exists in St. Cloud.
The Minnesota Sheriff’s Association is helping distribute binkies, Rose said. Binky Patrol started in Cali-fornia about seven years ago, Rose said.
Rose’s chapter collects and makes binkies. Volunteers, some as young as 4, have helped to make the binkies. Sometimes, the chapter has a Bink-a-thon. In the last Bink-a-thon, 40 volunteers used five sewing machines to make 120 blankets, she said.
“Sometimes children are removed from their homes because of bad situations,” Rose said. “That’s often in the middle of the night and they don’t have a lot of things. The blankets provide warmth, security and comfort.”
A reminder of those qualities can help a child deal with a traumatic event, said Dr. Scott Palmer, coordinator of psychology services at St. Cloud Hospital.
Blankets or stuffed animals are often used nationwide to help children deal with traumatic events.
Donated teddy bears were used to help children cope in New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks and in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the federal building, Palmer said.
The animals or blankets can help children or even adults express fears surrounding a traumatic event, Palmer said. They also can provide a necessary distraction, he said.
“We associate blankets or stuffed animals with warmth, safety and nurturing qualities,” Palmer said. “It’s something else to focus on and it’s very nurturing. It’s safe to use and nice to touch something warm and cuddly.”