A safe haven

Tuesday, December 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some have been abused, some neglected. Some arrive at their new home unable to read and unable to function in the outside world. They come to Missouri Girls Town because it’s a safe place where they can begin to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced and learn the skills they need to make their lives a success.

Elizabeth — the state requested that her real name not be printed — came to Girls Town because she began having problems with her family. She grew apart from her mother as she became more independent. She maintains a relationship with her mother, stepfather and siblings who live in Columbia, but her parents share custody with the state of Missouri. For the past four years, Elizabeth has lived at a Girls Town facility, attending high school at North Callaway.

After living in the dorms on the Girls Town campus in Kingdom City for three years, Elizabeth moved to the group home in Auxvasse, which she shares with five other girls. The group home is one of several facilities where residents try their hand at independent living. Here, the girls share the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning, as well as getting their homework done and holding part-time jobs. Elizabeth said that although living with five other girls can be hectic, “each of them have taught me so much.”

For the 18-year-old, her senior year combines the responsibilities of living in the group home, planning for the future and enjoying her last year of high school. Scholarships will help fund her college tuition, and a grant from Girls Town will help her with living expenses that scholarships don’t cover. Elizabeth also works at McDonald’s part-time to help pay for extras that will make her senior year memorable and help her save for a car.

As she prepares to leave, Girls Town will continue to support her. Visits from Division of Family Services workers and counselors will help make sure the girls’ needs are met as they start life on their own.

“I think the best thing is that somebody’s always going to be there,” Elizabeth said. “No matter what.”

GROUP: Missouri Girls Town

SUMMARY: Missouri Girls Town is a nonprofit organization that provides residential care and counseling for girls ages 8-21 who have been abused or neglected. The program provides educational services as well as adult-training programs to help young female residents develop the skills they need to succeed independently.

CONTACT: To make donations, contact Kathy Becker, director of development at P.O. Box 59, Kingdom City, 65262, or by phone at 642-5345. The fax number is 642-5162.

WISH: The girls at the group home would like a DVD player, a cappuccino maker and household linens, including towels, wash cloths, blankets and comforters. Telephone calling cards to call family and friends would also be appreciated.

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