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Supporters of Missouri’s new boarding school regulations hopeful for change

Circle of Hope Girls Ranch
Circle of Hope Girls Ranch(KY3)
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 10:45 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Supporters of Missouri’s new regulations for boarding schools say they are hopeful for change.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson has signed House Bill 557 into law. The new law gives the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division oversight over faith-based boarding schools and other facilities that keep children overnight.

Residential care facilities for children that are exempt from state licensure must now let the department know of their existence. And they must comply with things like fire, safety and health inspections, background checks for staff and volunteers, and have medical and school records for all children. Facilities must also make children available to authorities if there is an accusation of abuse or neglect.

The state shut down Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in Cedar County in August of 2020. Operators Boyd and Stephanie Householder were charged with 102 counts of abuse and neglect. The state is investigating another Cedar County boarding school, Agape Ranch.

Amanda Householder, the daughter of the Circle of Hope operators, has been fighting for years to bring the alleged abuse and neglect to light. She joined the governor at the signing ceremony for the new regulations. “He turned around, and he started shaking all of our hands, one by one, telling us, like looking us in the eyes, like you could feel him staring in your eye,” said Householder. “He saw us. And he told us to not stop sharing our stories, because it’s saving lives. And I think even just getting the bill was amazing. But that right there, I never thought he would look us in the eye and like, acknowledge us.”

Under the new law, failure to comply could result in fines, misdemeanor charges, and the potential removal of children. Because the legislation had an emergency clause, it goes into effect immediately. The Missouri Department of Social Services says license-exempt residential care facilities providing services to children must let the state know of their existence by October 12.

For questions or concerns, facilities or concerned citizens may contact the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division residential program unit at 573-751-4954 or CLICK HERE.

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