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Candidate tours San Mar

October 12, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

BOONSBORO - "Are you going to run for president?" a teenage girl asked Kristen Cox, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, when Cox visited San Mar Children's Home Wednesday afternoon.

Cox toured the newly opened Dr. Henry F. and Florence Hill Graff Shelter for girls, which provides a temporary home for teenage girls referred by juvenile services, said Bruce Anderson, San Mar president and chief executive officer. The shelter opened July 26.

About half of the girls return home after their stay in the shelter. The other half are transferred to other facilities.

A group of 12- to 17-year-olds greeted Cox in the shelter's lobby. The shelter has beds for 12 girls, but only eight were staying there Wednesday.

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Cox sat with the girls in the shelter's living room, casually asking questions about living in the shelter. Being away from family, getting along with a group of girls and seeing the same people every day make life in the shelter tough, the girls told Cox.

"My PO (probation officer) doesn't want me to be with my mom," one girl said.

Aggression, running away and truancy are some of the most common violations that bring girls to the shelter, Anderson said.

Cox, who serves as secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, talked to the group about her own challenges. She started going blind at the age of 11, and lost most of her sight in her early 20s. She said she learned that people have low expectations of those who are different.

"When you're in a society that has low expectations for you, it's all too easy to buy into them," she said.

Some of the girls shared their future aspirations. One wants to be a veterinarian. Another enjoys cooking and wants to study culinary arts.

Cox also visited San Mar's therapeutic home, which houses eight girls. One girl grabbed her hand and led her to a large chair in the center of the home's living room.

Here, the girls chatted with Cox about Harry Potter books and a recent adventure trip to Colorado that some San Mar girls enjoyed.

One of their roommates was leaving that night to join a foster family.

"I'm going to miss my San Mar family a lot," the girl said. But she is excited to stay with her foster family. Last year, she ate her first "real" Thanksgiving dinner and Easter dinner with the family.

"At my biological house, Thanksgiving dinner was macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets," the girl said.

"It's important that you guys aren't victims, but change agents," Cox said before posing for a picture with the group.

Her visit to San Mar reinforced her belief that it is important to restructure funding so the state can be more flexible in serving those in need, Cox said. Family stability is important to everyone's well-being, she said.

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