Harrisburg Children's Home Builds New House

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HARRISBURG - A Harrisburg children's home is building its fifth house, with hopes of completing it by summer 2014.

The Coyote Hill staff says this new house will let the organization continue its mission: letting children be children.

"A lot of the times, we've seen kids come in with siblings and the older one has the role of mom or dad," said house parent Kayla Kauffman. "To be able to let them finally be a kid is really nice."

Since 1991, Coyote Hill has been a place where abused and neglected children can go for as little as a few days to years.

"Some of them have stories that will break your heart," said house parent Michael Kauffman. "They'll be ten years old and they'll have so much more life experience than I'll ever have."

The children stay in a house run by full-time house parents who care for as many as eight foster children at a time, as well as their own biological children.

"We just get to be mom and dad 24/7," said house parent Charlie Marshman. "We do everything from doctors appointments to 3 a.m. flus, and everything else."

Michael Kauffman said, "There's no such thing as a typical day. We do all of the normal stuff that people do - laundry, school work, meals, chores. But we also have a lot of extra stuff, like meetings with case workers."

Coyote Hill is building the new house because of demand. In Missouri, child abuse and neglect cases rose 8 percent from 2007 to 2011. Each year, Coyote Hill has to turn away more than 100 phone calls because of lack of space.

While the organization has raised money for construction, it still needs money to fund the operational costs of the house once it is built.

Coyote Hill currently has four homes. Three can house children while one functions as the office, an educational facility and a counseling center.

Coyote Hill typically houses more than 20 foster children.

"We just minister to them and pour the love of God into them as much as we can, and hopefully it will stick when they leave here," Kayla Kauffman said.

Marshman said, "They know they're loved here."

Most house parents stay an average of two years. In that time, they can see more than 30 children come and go from their home.

"It's like losing one of your own kids," Marhsman said.

Michael Kauffman said, "It's difficult whenever the kids move on. We know this is only a temporary thing, but we try and make as much of a lasting impression as we can."

But, with the hard parts of the job also come the rewards.

"We see kids that we've had for six months or a year and they've just come leaps and bounds, doing so much better than they were when they came," Michael Kauffman said. "It's so good hearing the kids calling you mom and dad and saying that they love you."

Indeed, the staff gets something out of it too.

"It's more of a blessing for me than for them," Michael Kauffman said.