The decision to accept girls to the residential program has been discussed for a while, says Executive Director Tod Balsbaugh. He'd observed that the needs of at-risk females were rising, while services were limited. Also, he says, "We've had sibling situations where the boy and girl have to be separated, which we didn't necessarily like."
The home, located on a 33-acre campus on West Broad Street, already runs programs that serve both boys and girls, such as the Youth Emergency Shelter and the John G. Wood School for children whose needs are not met in public schools.
But girls will be new to the residential program, which places at-risk boys aged 11 to 17 in family groups. Each group lives together in a house run by a professionally trained teaching couple. Balsbaugh is currently recruiting a couple to lead the new girls' house.
Administrators expect a first group of eight girls to arrive in late February or early March. The timing depends on the completion date of a building now under construction, which will become the girls' living quarters.
The private, nonsectarian home recently sent letters to alumni and donors informing them of the change. And although there's been some apprehension about how the institution will adjust, no one has objected, Balsbaugh says. "I expected more resistance," he says. "We didn't get any."
The boys, of course, are excited, Balsbaugh says, especially those who attend classes on campus instead of going to public school. "They feel far more isolated," he says, "and they all always would love to have more opportunities for interaction with young ladies."
With the addition of girls, the home is coming full-circle, in a way. The Virginia Home was founded in 1846 because Richmond's Female Humane Asylum was unable to take in a small boy who had asked the headmistress for pennies. A group of local leaders then created the Richmond Male Orphan Asylum, which grew into the Virginia Home for Boys.
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