Hope Children's Home is the first of its kind in area
Monday, January 30, 2012
For years people went to the large, two-story brick house at 709 East Main in Jackson for help -- but not the same kind that can be found there now.
The house dates back to the 1890s. Since the 1960s, it was used as law offices.
Last February the rooms of the house began to take on a new look. Cribs and toys replaced empty spaces where cabinets and desks once stood. Hope Children's Home, an emergency foster home, now provides help there for children who are removed from their own homes and need immediate care.
Before the opening of the home, there wasn't another option like it in the area for children who quickly needed a place to go, said Dr. Dawn Caruso, president of the home. Some would have to sit for hours in the local offices of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division, a police station or an emergency room before being placed in a foster home, she said.
Right now the home can hold six children. By summer, Caruso said there is hope enough money can be raised to install a sprinkler system in the house, and that number can climb to 12.
Caruso met the home's "house parents," Lisa and Kevin Moore, in foster care classes. The Moores live in the house with their two sons, Hunter, 16, and Christopher, 2. Caruso, knowing of their experience as foster parents and previous experience of running a day care, asked them to move in and take care of the children coming in for emergency foster care, she said. She tapped Kristy Mehner to be the home's director, aware of her connection to LaCroix United Methodist Church, where her husband Rob is a pastor, and her experience with children as a former special needs teacher in the Cape Girardeau School District. The church donated money to get the home running.
Around 20 children have stayed in the home since its opening. Several children, from infants to teens, are staying in the home now. A few are siblings. A main goal of the home is to try to keep siblings together when they are moved to foster care, Caruso said. Social workers from the Children's Division check in on the children daily by phone and visit the house once a month, as required.
Caruso said group homes in the area have seen problems in the past, so being able to set up the home and have Children's Division employees or police bring children directly to the home makes theirs a lucky situation. When children leave the home, they are most often placed in permanent foster homes, Caruso said. The staff is working on setting up medical, dental and psychological exams for children who come into the home within the first 24 hours they are there. That way, the best methods to help a child can be determined immediately, Caruso said.
The home serves the 32nd Judicial Circuit, which serves Cape Girardeau, Bollinger and Perry counties. There are currently 154 children in foster care in the area covered by the circuit, said Seth Bundy, director of communications for the Missouri Department of Social Services. Statewide, 4,699 children entered or re-entered foster care from January to the end of September in 2011, according to a report compiled by the department.
A majority of the children placed in foster care with Hope Children's Home experience similar problems in their homes in order to get there, said Caruso.
"Parents on drugs, drugs and more drugs," she said.
Lisa Moore said Hope Children's Home is a place where children can finally see fighting and drug use are not a normal part of life.
"Here you can teach them there are other ways to do things than the life they are living in," she said.
Although the home works alongside and has the support of the Children's Division, it operates independently, Caruso said. It does have the support of several Jackson churches in the form of donations of food and gift cards, according to Mehner. But the bills are paid mostly by Caruso and her husband, along with monetary donations.
Many renovations to the home's interior have been completed over the past year. There were no showers in the bathrooms, and no functioning kitchen, said Lisa Moore. Ninety percent of the work done has been by volunteers from local churches and the community, she said. They've built a kitchen, showers, laundry rooms, painted and built a fenced playground. The staff is attempting to raise money for a large van to transport the children, as well as the sprinkler system.
In a basement room that has been converted to a clothes closet and food pantry for the home and area foster families, the Moores created a wall where each child that stayed can leave their handprint behind.
"I figure before long, the whole thing will fill up," said Lisa Moore.
More information on the home and donation methods can be found online at www.hopeforonemore.com.
709 E. Main St., Jackson, MO