BARIUM SPRINGS, N.C., March 25 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 buriesher 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 tellher he was hungry, he stops in his tracks. Sighing, he settles back into hisregular spot on the worn carpet in front of the TV. He knows if he waits alittle while the stomach pains will go away.
Every day, children are born into families that are unprepared to meeteven 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 tofor help. All of them suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to nurtureand care for them. The void created by neglectful, abusive and absent parentsyawns wide for these children.
Attempting to Fill the Void
Barium Springs Home for Children throws a lifeline to many of them. "Someof the kids we see have never known what it's like to be cared for, to live aday without fear," says Sharon Bell, spokesperson for Barium Springs Home forChildren. "They're just relieved to have a clean bed and regular meals. Byteaching them, keeping them safe and loving them, we give them something theylikely haven't felt before -- hope."
Founded in 1891, Barium Springs Home for Children provides services tomore than 700 children each year. In addition to offering a loving home toabused and neglected children, Barium Springs Home for Children provides earlychildhood development for low-income families, foster family programs,behavior treatment in a school setting for troubled teens, and earlyintervention for children still living in the community.
Lives Touched, Lives Changed
The positive effect of Barium Springs Home for Children's services can beseen in children across the region. Nicholas*, age 10, suffered abuse sosevere that he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, making him prone toviolent outbursts. Desperation has led him to consider suicide. Regularcounseling provided in a group-home setting taught him to cope with anxietyand manage his emotions. The curtain of fear gently pulled away, revealing acharming sense of humor.
Raped at age 11, Allison* was forced to deal with the trauma withoutparental 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 toprepare for her move to Barium Springs. No clothes, no toiletries, no sheetsand 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 abetter life for herself.
Barium Springs staff members have countless similar stories. The quietlittle girl with shining brown eyes who hunches protectively over the food shegets in preschool. The formerly downtrodden teen who now dreams of being anastronaut. The 12-year-old who looks forward to going to "regular" schoolagain, once he can learn to control his anger.
Due to the ever-changing field of funding and funding cuts, Barium SpringsHome for Children relies more and more on support from the community. "Oursupporters help us grow each year-nearly doubling in size over the past threeyears," Bell says. "We are growing so we are able to help more children andfamilies. And that's what it's all about, what it's always been about --helping the children."
* In the interest of privacy, the case studies presented in this articleare representations of children's real-life experiences at Barium Springs Homefor Children.