#TACFSFoster: The Ark Assessment Center and Emergency Shelter for Youth
The Ark Assessment Center and Emergency Shelter for Youth is the only facility within an 80-mile radius licensed and contracted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (TX HHSC) to provide assessment services and emergency shelter for 61 children and youth, ages 0 through 17. Many of the youth served at The Ark were removed from their homes after investigators determined their lives were in danger due to child abuse, physical abuse or neglect by a parent or guardian.
The shelter has served nearly 4,000 children since admitting its first resident on April 7, 2000. The record for the largest number of siblings ever cared for from a single family is 13. Although the facility may care for minors from anywhere in Texas, the geographic area impacted the most by it are 19 counties in the southern part of the state. Their average age is 2.5 years. The youngest newborns upon admittance have been just 1 day old. The average number of diapers changed in a 24-hour period exceeds 312. The frequency of diaper changes can be increased from hourly to every 15 minutes in cases of severe diaper rash.
The Ark provides a caring intervention for children and youth by placing them in a secure environment. During a period of up to 90 consecutive days, they are taken from being traumatized due to abuse/neglect to being evaluated and assessed by medical doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, counselors and other trained professionals to prompt improvements in their outlook on life and for placement in an appropriate long-term site where their needs can be met, such as a foster home, residential treatment center, therapeutic treatment center or basic child-care institution.
All the children’s needs are met while living at The Ark. The residents are treated as a family and provided with childcare by a nurturing, trained staff with absolute respect and unconditional love. The children receive nutritious meals/snacks, haircuts, transportation to outings and appointments, pull-ups, wipes and everything else needed for their well-being.
We help children by meeting their physical, academic and emotional needs.
When the children arrive, the employees ensure that the children have enough clothes in good condition and in the correct sizes. New shoes are given to the residents, and they get to keep them. We take children to the doctor as soon as we see something wrong with them or they complain about pain, etc. The staff follows up with any course of action recommended by the doctor. Each minor is given a complete medical, dental and vision examination. Medical treatment is received, including any prescribed medications.
Children are transported to a local school if they are old enough to attend it, even if we don’t know how long they’ll be with us and can be home-schooled. We believe it’s better for them to be with other children and to have a school teacher. We assist them with homework, uniforms and school supplies. The students participate in all the school’s activities, including wearing special clothing on designated days.
As the shelter’s staff works with the residents in a compassionate manner, a transformation begins to take place in these victims. The education and training they receive contribute toward healthy childhood development. Positive changes occur in their lives, allowing them to gain a sense of dignity and self-worth.
When The Ark first opened its doors, minors leaving the shelter tended to stay a short duration at a site before being placed elsewhere. Now when residents arrive at The Ark, they are asked how they feel in general and about the shelter, as well as other matters. The extra time getting acquainted with the residents has proved to be productive. The staff works very closely with the state agency’s workers and shares that information with them. Consequently, the children and youth benefit from placements that better suit their needs.
Thanks to The Ark’s existence, Child Protective Services can work with families to try to reunite them with the children under our care.