WALWORTH — The Agape House, a Christian home and school for girls, wants to help more girls in need.
“We really need to expand our financial base to continue to provide the services we do and expand those services,” Pam Patterson, director of the nonprofit organization, said. “We have these buildings to maintain. We have room for a few more girls, but we don’t have the funds to properly give them the help they need.”
The home takes in girls who have been abused, are addicted to drugs or have been in legal trouble. Counseling, house parents and independent education are offered to create a stable atmosphere for the girls . Patterson said they’re limited by staffing. The Agape House can’t afford to pay for more counseling hours, and volunteers are limited in their abilities.
“We want to provide each student with the resources that they need to heal,” she said. “I would love to take every girl that we can, fill the all the beds, but we don’t have the resources we need to help them.” Right now, the home has 10 girls, aged 12 to 17, but they can house 12. There are four women in the transitional home, aged 18 to 28 at max capacity, and there two additional girls coming to the Agape school but living at home.
All of the girls and women come from a one-hour radius around Walworth. “We’ve had calls from Tennessee, asking if we can take girls,” Patterson said. “I’d love to say yes, but right now we can’t. Right now, we operate on a first come, first served basis.”
Families are charged what they can afford to pay, based on a sliding-fee scale, she said, so no children are turned away for monetary reasons. “Except, right now, we are turning girls away because we don’t have the money,” Patterson said. In the beginning Patterson always wanted to help abused children. Less than a year after getting married, her sister-in-law dropped off four nieces and nephews at her door.
“We became foster parents, and I became a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “For 15 years, we were foster parents.” During that time, Patterson said she saw that many of the children put into foster care had special needs. “Their needs were not being met,” she said. “Often children would be put into foster care for six months or so until they are coping better. Then they’re brought back home.” The underlying cause, Patterson said, was never addressed. “We started Agape House with the idea of addressing those problems,” she said. “At a public school, girls can’t put their emotional issues aside for eight hours to learn. They have to be dealt with.”
At the Agape House girls can focus on their emotional needs through counseling and group work, and then focus on schoolwork, independently. It’s not just the girls that Agape House helps. The families of girls staying at the house often receive counseling, too. The school has a 98 percent graduation rate, which is creeping higher, Patterson said. “There are stories that will just break your heart,” she said. “But these girls come here, they get the help they need and they realize they aren’t dumb. They realize they can achieve.”