by Kelly White, CEO, Austin Children’s Services
The Austin Children’s Shelter officially changed its name last month, to Austin Children’s Services. Here’s why.
In the summer of 2013, ACS launched the first of three new community-based programs intended to reach more kids and families in need by keeping them safe in their own homes. First up was Strong Start, a voluntary program that works with families under extreme stress who are often referred by traditional day care centers. Strong Start was a well-respected stand-alone organization in Austin, and it was evident that the next right step was for them to partner with a larger agency that could extend their work into new communities.
Next, ACS received a child placing agency license and founded Foster in Austin, which offers an innovative approach to foster care that emphasizes rigorous screening, followed by ongoing training, monitoring, respite care and other support. One immediate wonderful result of Foster in Austin is that kids from ACS’ emergency shelter program have been able to move directly into Foster in Austin foster homes, providing a continuity of care that ordinarily doesn’t exist for kids who have been removed from their homes.
And finally this winter ACS opened Care Academy, an early childhood learning environment that incorporates Strong Start techniques and parent supports into a full-time day care program. Because the goal is to provide a diverse learning environment, ACS offers subsidized care to families in need – and also serves families who pay market rate for this high-quality child care center.
There’s so much good news in here for ACS it’s astonishing: we’re able to remain in the lives of the kids we serve in our residential programs for longer, as we provide more community-based services that help them after they move on from our campus. We gain a variety of earned income streams that help these programs pay for themselves and shore up our bottom line. And we’re already serving more kids and families in need than we could ever reach through our residential programs.
But these new programs did lead to an inevitable conclusion: the name Austin Children’s Shelter just wasn’t big enough anymore to encompass all that we’re trying to do to end abuse and neglect in our community. So we are celebrating the Austin Children’s Shelter’s 30th anniversary by changing our name — for the fourth time in ACS history — to Austin Children’s Services.
Austin Children’s Shelter isn’t going anywhere – it’s still the cornerstone of our residential campus, serving 195 kids last year. It will remain the central program of Austin Children’s Services.
And the most important thing to remember is that these new programs and this new name have everything to do with what we’ve been doing for the past 30 years: working to end child abuse and neglect in our community.
Community support has helped build ACS into a trusted and respected organization, and with these changes, we will be able to do even more on behalf of the children of Austin.