Hope Village for Children was founded in June 2000 by actress Sela Ward, a Meridian native, with a vision to “lead each child to a place where hope is born.” In our first five years, we have seen that vision become a reality.
Each child who comes to us has been removed from his or her primary caregiver’s custody by the Mississippi Department of Human Services due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. The Hope Village campus consists of five cottages. Two cottages are licensed as emergency shelters for children ages birth to eighteen, while two other cottages are licensed as long-term therapeutic residential facilities for children ages twelve to eighteen. The two types of facilities on our campus each have a cottage for males and a cottage for females. Each emergency shelter has the capacity to provide care for up to twelve children each night, and each residential cottage has the capacity to care for up to ten children each night. The remaining cottage has been renovated and furnished, but remains empty because of a lack of funding for support personnel. When we are able to open a new cottage, we will have the capacity to provide care for fifty-four children each night. In 2006, Hope Village provided over 10,000 nights of service to over 200 children.
Each child who arrives at Hope Village is given appropriate medical, dental, and psychological care for the duration of his or her stay. Each child is also enrolled in a local public school or in an accredited GED program and is provided with tutoring services each weekday in order to facilitate educational success. Our children are also taught independent living skills so that, upon maturity, they may become happy, healthy, and productive citizens.
This year, Hope Village for Children has extended its services to include a transitional residential program. This program was implemented to serve the children in our care who “age out” of the foster care system, but who choose to remain in the care of Hope Village. Currently, our most pressing need is for funding so that we may build two new cottages to house our transitional residents. The transitional homes will provide these young adults with the opportunity to experience living in a less structured environment than a group home while also providing support and supervision so that they will be prepared to navigate the “real” world upon leaving the foster care system. Our children are eager to continue their education, secure stable employment, save for their future, and acquire essential skills for independent living. Hope Village for Children wants to guarantee that they have the opportunity to accomplish these goals.
Without the services of Hope Village, the children who come to us would likely spend many years traveling through the foster care system without any place to call home. Hope Village becomes their home, and our staff, volunteers, and residents become their family. We are committed to these children when almost everyone else has given up on them. We are their hope.