Practicing prayer and faith at work
By Lindsay Peyton
Before Scott Toliver heads in to work at the Martin House Children’s Advocacy Center in Longview, he says a prayer. He asks God to make him a tool for the children he serves in order to lighten their burden. As Intake Specialist/Forensic Interviewer, he works to streamline the process for abused children, allowing that they only tell their story once instead of over and over again.
“I pray that I just do a good job,” Toliver said.
Each month, he logs about 140 cases into the software system. In cases of serious abuse, he reaches out to Child Protective Services and law enforcement. He counts about 25 to 30 interviews each month that assess the safety of a child’s living situation.
The number of reports can be staggering. “The average person doesn’t know how many cases a month come in,” Toliver said. “They would be floored if they knew.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It recognizes the need of communities to work together to eradicate child abuse and build supportive environments for children instead.
This mission has motivated Toliver for decades.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce), and completing graduate work in clinical psychology, Toliver began counseling teens and working in a psychiatric hospital.
Then, he accepted a job with Child Protective Services. “I promised my mom I’d only do it for a year,” he recalled with a laugh. “You kind of fall into this work and get caught up in it. It just keeps you coming back.”
Toliver ended up staying for 27 years. His work spanned all areas, including investigations, family safety services, conservatorship and supervision. He eventually became child safety specialist-investigation screener with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services State Office.
Then, in 2019, Toliver decided to retire – but that decision was short lived. He got an offer he couldn’t refuse at the Martin House.
Toliver served on the board of The Martin House since its inception and was devoted to the nonprofit’s mission. “They just do good work,” he said. “A Children’s Advocacy Center helps make the stress on a child the least it can possibly be. And at Martin’s House, they are dedicated to what they do.”
Earlier Toliver had helped them streamline their intake process. When they offered him a position after he announced his retirement from CPS, he jumped at the opportunity “in a heartbeat.”
“I love this place,” he said. “They do very important work.”
Martin’s House offers free therapy to families and connects them to additional resources. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people just don’t know,” Toliver said. “Take the therapy for example. It’s crucial for these families and we offer if for free. All you have to do is show up and we take care of the rest.”
When it comes to finding his own refuge, Toliver relies on faith. Since 1999, he and his wife Kendra have been members of Greggton UMC in Longview.
Their sons Jackson, 22, and Davis, 15, were both baptized and confirmed in the church. “They’re active in youth group and both have done missions every summer,” Toliver said.
He and his wife served on several boards at the congregation as well. They also were concurrently on the board at Asbury House, a mission project of the UMC, that provides low or no lost early childhood education.
Kendra shares her husband’s passion for helping youth. She’s been a teacher at Pine Tree ISD for 24 years and specializes in dyslexia.
The couple practice yoga at home together to unwind. Toliver also relies on time in prayer.
He added that Pastor Ricky Ricks at Greggton has been instrumental in helping him keep everything in perspective. “When I can’t take it, I talk to him,” Toliver said. “He’s been very helpful to me to come back to center. It’s easy sometimes to think the world is all bad. He helps me find God when I stray.”
Holding onto faith can be a struggle, Toliver said, after learning the details of childhood abuse cases. “Some of the things I see, you’ve just got to ask why. But God is in control, even when bad things happen,” he said. “Maybe part of his plan in putting me in the path to help.”
Toliver feels called to do whatever he can to assist the children at the Martin House. “That’s where God wants me to be, and that’s where I’ll stay,” he said.
He advises that individuals wanting to help a child suffering from abuse contact their local Children’s Advocacy Center to support through donations or volunteering.
Toliver believes that we are all called to serve in some way.
“You’ve got to use your tools, talents and presence,” he said. “God calls on us to do whatever we can, whenever we can and to help as many as you can.”
After all, serving as the hands and feet of God is central to the mission of the United Methodist Church, Toliver said. “To be a good Methodist, you have to have a helpful heart,” he said. “You’ve got to find a way to help people somehow.”