Giving Children Hope To Hold Onto

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Tyler is 9 years old -- and hungry. Pushing dirty dishes aside, he climbs up on the kitchen counter. One by one, he opens and closes each cabinet and peers inside. Nothing. Helplessly, he looks over at his mother. Turning over on the couch, she buries her face deeper into the stained pillow. He starts toward her and then, remembering her twisted look and angry words the last time he woke her to tell her he was hungry, he stops in his tracks. Sighing, he settles back into his regular spot on the worn carpet in front of the TV. He knows if he waits a little while the stomach pains will go away.

Every day, children are born into families that are unprepared to meet even their most basic needs. Many of these children are severely neglected. Some live in constant fear of abuse. Most have no family or friends to turn to for help. All of them suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to nurture and care for them. The void created by neglectful, abusive and absent parents yawns wide for these children.

Attempting to Fill the Void

Barium Springs Home for Children throws a lifeline to many of them. "Some of the kids we see have never known what it's like to be cared for, to live a day without fear," says Sharon Bell, spokesperson for Barium Springs Home for Children. "They're just relieved to have a clean bed and regular meals. By teaching them, keeping them safe and loving them, we give them something they likely haven't felt before -- hope."

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Founded in 1891, Barium Springs Home for Children provides services to more than 700 children each year. In addition to offering a loving home to abused and neglected children, Barium Springs Home for Children provides early childhood development for low-income families, foster family programs, behavior treatment in a school setting for troubled teens, and early intervention for children still living in the community.

Lives Touched, Lives Changed

The positive effect of Barium Springs Home for Children's services can be seen in children across the region. Nicholas*, age 10, suffered abuse so severe that he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, making him prone to violent outbursts. Desperation has led him to consider suicide. Regular counseling provided in a group-home setting taught him to cope with anxiety and manage his emotions. The curtain of fear gently pulled away, revealing a charming sense of humor.

Raped at age 11, Allison was forced to deal with the trauma without parental support. Seeking to ease her pain, she quickly turned to drugs. Authorities called Barium Springs Home for Children when, drug-addicted, Allison (now age 14) stopped attending school. There was nothing to pack to prepare for her move to Barium Springs. No clothes, no toiletries, no sheets and blankets. Her house was as empty as her heart. After a long struggle, Allison is now drug-free and is getting the support she needs to build a better life for herself.

Barium Springs staff members have countless similar stories. The quiet little girl with shining brown eyes who hunches protectively over the food she gets in preschool. The formerly downtrodden teen who now dreams of being an astronaut. The 12-year-old who looks forward to going to "regular" school again, once he can learn to control his anger.

Due to the ever-changing field of funding and funding cuts, Barium Springs Home for Children relies more and more on support from the community. "Our supporters help us grow each year-nearly doubling in size over the past three years," Bell says. "We are growing so we are able to help more children and families. And that's what it's all about, what it's always been about -- helping the children."

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