Circle of Hope owners speak out, close doors, amid state level investigation

Owners say doors will be closed permanently.
The Owners Of A Southwest Missouri Boarding School Are Speaking To Reporters For The First Time Since The Beginning Of A State Abuse Investigation

CEDAR COUNTY, Mo. – The owners of Circle of Hope Girl’s Ranch, a boarding school in Cedar County, say they will be keeping their doors closed for good amid an abuse and neglect investigation by the state.

The state has been investigating the boarding school after allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuses started to arise from former residents. So far they have removed around 20 girls from the facility, which happened in August and served a search warrant on September 1st.

In recent years, the state substantiated four reports of abuse and neglect, one for neglect, one for physical abuse, and two for sexual abuse allegations, says Rebecca Woelfel, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services. She also says since the recently closed reform school is exempt from state licensure, the state doesn’t have authority over its operations.

Owners Stephanie and Boyd Householder claim those allegations are untrue, and they want their reputation restored. They say the allegations come from girls who are frustrated that their lives didn’t turn out the way they wanted after leaving the school.

“They’re angry and they’re bitter, and they want to blame somebody,” says Stephanie Householder. “They feel like they’re victims, and they just want to take their anger out on somebody.”

“I’m really upset at the fact that they’ve said that the girls who are speaking out have gone nowhere in life,” says Amanda Householder, the adult daughter of Stephanie and Boyd. “Some of these girls have master’s degrees in education. Some of them have worked with autistic children. Some are nurses, some are veterinarians, some are stay-at-home moms. We’ve all gone somewhere in our life. They’re trying to get people to still think of us as troubled teens. And so I think maybe they’re just so delusional they think that they can just continue to blind people with their narcissism and lies.”

Stephanie and Boyd also commented on a video that was recorded at the school in March that appeared to show Boyd Householder endorsing violence among the girls. Boyd says the video was edited, and that he was simply telling one girl that she could defend herself against another.

Amanda says that she’s glad to see the doors are closed but will continue to push for legal repercussions against her parents.

“I was relieved, but I honestly feel like this is their way of trying to hide from all of this,” says Amanda. “They know the truth and we know the truth, and we’re not gonna stop fighting until they stop denying it and until they are held accountable.”

The Circle of Hope website has been taken down, and Google lists it as being “permanently closed.” The sign outside of the ranch has also been taken down.

Missouri Representative Keri Ingle has asked the state’s Office of the Child Advocate to conduct a complete review of the allegations against Circle of Hope and called for a legislative committee hearing on the matter.

“I want to know what happened, what happened in the system?” Ingle says. “Was it they weren’t following their own policies, they weren’t following existing laws? Or are there laws and policies that need to be put in place to prevent this from happening again?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Previous reports on the investigation into Circle of Hope: