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Area foster kids shipped across state due to lack of local care

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AMARILLO - For hundreds of foster kids dealing with intense emotional issues, the state says they're not ready to be placed in a regular foster home.

Instead they need to be in a "residential treatment center," but there isn't one in Amarillo.

Right now there are about 150 panhandle children who need that special care. The closest facility is in Lubbock, but it's constantly full, leaving most of those children to be shipped off across the state.

Arrow Child and Family Ministries is the only emergency shelter in Amarillo.

At any given time 20 or more children live there waiting to be placed in foster care. But the director of the facility, Keith Howard, says some kids need more than what his facility can offer.

"They need a more structured environment, they need a more therapeutic environment, really to help them deal with some of the abuse and trauma and neglect they've been through in their life," Howard said.

The residential treatment center in Lubbock doesn't have the room to support the entire panhandle.

"They're having to be served in Houston, in Dallas, Austin, or Tyler," Howard said.

A shelter in the middle of the country may not seem like an ideal place for a troubled child to be, but the closer a child is to home, the more hope there is for healing.

"We as the panhandle community need to figure out how to serve our kids and bring them home," Howard said. "Because their success rate is going to be so much greater if we can put them in a place that's familiar to them that they want to be."

Earlier this week, the first step to building a residential treatment center arrived in a plain white envelope, inside was a check for $50,000.

"They've asked to remain anonymous, Howard said. "But they' wanted to put the money up so the community could see that this is important."

Arrow Child and Family Ministries wants to build a 20 bed treatment center and another 20 bed shelter.

They'll need around $2.5 more in funding but they're sure the community will step up to the plate for the panhandle's children.

"Bring our kids home. Help us build the facilities we need to build so that we can serve our local kids and keep them here in the panhandle," Howard said.

Right now the organization is finalizing the bids for project so they can get an exact cost then they'll kick off a capital campaign some time this month.

For more information on how you can help, e-mail Howard at Keith.Howard@arrow.org, or call the office at (806)335-9138.

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