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Children / Health / Non-Profit / School

Wounded kids learn how to navigate world at Mount St. Vincent Home

By the time a child gets to Mount St. Vincent Home, he or she has been abused, neglected or witnessed abuse. Some have mental illness, and some have been in several living situations.

Some arrive with only a plastic bag, filled with a few clothes and maybe a favorite toy. They are scared and afraid they will be rejected again, said the home’s director, Sister Amy Willcott.

“We don’t know all of what they’ve gone through,” she said. “We have some pretty darned challenging kids.”

Mount St. Vincent Home is one of several organizations that has received funding through Denver Post Charities’ Season to Share.

Mount St. Vincent was opened 128 years ago by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth as an orphanage for boys.

Today, 44 children live at the non-denominational school, and 50 others are there for day treatment. Two thirds are boys, and the others are girls. They come from throughout Colorado.

The goal is to help abused, neglected and mentally ill children function fully in their homes and society.

“All the kids want to belong and be a family,” Willcott said.

By the time they reach the home, the children often have been so traumatized that they are behind in school and have poor social skills. Boys usually act out under such stress, Mount St. Vincent spokesman Dennis Kennedy said, and girls often “go into a freeze mode and withdraw. It’s their coping mechanism.”

The aim of the program, Kennedy said, “is to heal brains.”

Treatment is based on information gathered from those “in the child’s circle” before they arrive at St. Vincent, but teachers and therapists also take cues from the kids as they get to know them.

Many are so accustomed to chaos and sensory overload that they sometimes create chaos because that’s what they’re used to. When that happens, the child is taken to the “de-escalation room” to talk to a counselor.

They are taught in brightly painted classrooms, many decorated with pictures painted by the children.

The residential children all have their own bedrooms, a stuffed animal and an afghan.

One child was always hoarding food, so staff members put snack food and fruit in his room.

Each child is given a bicycle and helmet, which are theirs to keep. There is a soccer field and exercise machinery “to help work out their turmoil,” Kennedy said.

-By Virginia Culver


Mount St. Vincent

4159 Lowell Blvd.

In operation more than 128 years

Number served each year: 200

Staff: 140

Budget: $6.1 million

Percentage of budget going to client services: 86 percent

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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