Amanda Masterson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Haven.

Boys & Girls Haven Helps With Foster Care, Independence Readiness and Counseling Services

In 1950, nine boys, a chef and a Catholic priest moved into a newly built cottage on Goldsmith Lane in Louisville. At that time, children in Kentucky’s foster care system were turned out at the age of 14, and while girls were often able to find a home, it was more difficult for teenage boys. Father Maloney, a Catholic priest, noticed the need and, with a conviction to make a difference for these boys, sought support from both the church and his family. He gained funds, bought land and began a building process that would house nine turned-away boys.

One cottage, it turned out, wasn’t enough.

The project on Goldsmith Lane continued to grow until now, over 70 years after its small but significant start. It has become a 22-acre campus, working in concert with off-campus apartments and community services, all in the name of giving a home to Kentucky’s vulnerable children. Today this organization is called Boys & Girls Haven.

“Our mission is really to help these children and families,” says Amanda Masterson, the organization’s CEO. “In [the Goldsmith Lane facility], we serve boys ages 11 to 17 who need residential treatment and who are in the state’s foster care system.”

Along with a residential home, the boys receive continuing – though not simply traditional – therapy. The facility provides “music therapy, art therapy, just different types of creative therapies that you can do with teenagers,” Masterson says. “We have a barn on our property, and so the kids can also participate in equine- or animal-assisted therapy.”

The farm animals serve more than just therapeutic purposes. “A lot of times it’s a way to build trust with the kids,” Masterson says. “They don’t oftentimes trust adults. This teaches them to use skills to build relationships with animals, and helps them understand how to translate that to people relationships.”

The activities have a vocational training aspect as well, teaching the young men how to show up and complete tasks.

At the age of 18, young men and women have the option to “recommit” to the state, extending state-given support until the age of 21. Boys & Girls Haven also helps young men in this transition period learn how to function with increased independence. “We work with you on getting connected to school, growing your independence, making sure you know how to make doctor’s appointments, how to get to and from where you need to go, and to ride the TARC,” Masterson says.

There are supervised pre-independent living apartments, and after “graduating,” there are independent apartments available.

Boys & Girls Haven does not, however, serve only young men. Every program they offer, with the exception of the residential campus option, is open to girls. The organization also works with the broader community, including outpatient behavioral health services, referred to as Haven Family Counseling. This includes mental health and case management services.

Financial support can also be given, whether through donations or through the Gravy Cup, held in February.

“That’s a pretty large program for us,” Masterson says. “We’re serving children and families in their community, whether that be in the school setting or in their home, or in an office space.”

Additionally, Boys & Girls Haven trains foster parents who plan to serve higher-need children – those coming out of residential treatment or into the state’s foster care system.

“Truly there’s not a more vulnerable population than kids who have been removed from their home of origin or family, and these are abused and neglected kids so they’ve experienced trauma,” Masterson says. “We’re part of their healing journey. Boys & Girls Haven has always let me put the kids first.”

The mission is dear to Masterson’s heart. She has worked with the Haven for 15 years, first as a social worker, and then in a variety of roles including programming director and chief operating officer, before becoming the organization’s CEO over four years ago.

“I work with some really dedicated, talented people,” she says. “As a leader I just get out of their way and let them do what they’re really good at. Our mission is really to help these children and families to be resilient members of the community, to help them heal, and to give them hope for their future. We know that this population is at high risk for being homeless, and so we want to work to combat that, and the better we do at getting them stabilized and getting them to work through some of that trauma, and getting them back into a home environment or on their way in independent living, the better they’re going to feel.”

The role of each individual is essential to helping Louisville’s vulnerable children, and Masterson acknowledges this by discussing the impacts of contributors, volunteers and Haven staff.

“Abuse and neglect is a difficult topic,” Masterson says. “It’s easy to not think about it, but it happens everywhere. It happens in all zip codes.”

Masterson urges readers to be kind, stay aware and offer support. “You just never know what someone’s going through,” she says.

Neighbors helping neighbors can reduce the number of children in need of services like Boys & Girls Haven.

For those who want to serve with the organization, there are many options. They host events, both for the community and for the young men living at the Haven, and volunteers are welcome for all. Financial support can also be given, whether through donations or through the Gravy Cup, held in February. “It’s a way to support the organization and also just have some good comfort food,” Masterson says. Community members purchase tickets to sample an incredible variety of biscuits and gravy made by local cooks, and professional chefs declare winners in different categories.

There are also opportunities to serve on the grounds. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” Masterson says. “We have older buildings and 22 acres of property to take care of.”

Volunteers can help care for the grounds, gardens, animals and barn on-site. “Also, we look for opportunities for people to help mentor the kids,” Masterson says. For a group of children who don’t always trust adults, a good mentoring relationship with a grown-up can be life changing.

Masterson says the staff makes Boys & Girls Haven’s work possible. “It takes a special kind of person to do it,” she says of the team. “It’s making a difference in this kid’s life. It’s meaningful work.”

Since that first cottage opened over 70 years ago, the organization has shown Kentucky’s vulnerable children that there is, indeed, a hope for their future.

To learn more and get involved, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Louisville Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });