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Area organization busy amid two boarding school investigations

SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — An ongoing investigation into two Southwest Missouri boarding schools has kept officials with a local children’s organization busy.

The Missouri AG’s Office has filed over 100 counts of alleged child abuse against the couple that owns and operates the Circle Of Hope Girls Ranch in Cedar County. A similar probe involves the Agape Boarding School for Boys in Stockton. As a result, employees of the Children’s Center have been assisting in those cases.

Vickie Dudley, Executive Director, Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri, said, “We got the call on a Friday evening that we were gonna have a large number of young boys uh that we were gonna possibly interview.”

Dudley says her organization will do what ever is necessary to help out with matters like these, whether it’s hosting victims at one of their Southwest Missouri locations, or going to the child.

“Fortunately we can pull staff from all four of our locations so we have mobile equipment so we can go on site, we can bring our nurses up from our Center in Monett, from our Center’s in Nevada and Butler, so we can manage large investigations.”

Missouri is one of only two states in the country that don’t currently have laws calling for oversight of religious-related boarding facilities.

Next week, Children’s Center Executive Director Vickie Dudley will travel to Jefferson City to testify in favor of House Bill 557.

“There are a lot of good institutions out there that serve youth that are residential based that help kids that are having problems resolve those issues, but there’s equally some that are not following guidelines and restrictions and protecting kids.”

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