GALVESTON

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has closed a facility operated by a Galveston nonprofit serving homeless and abused children, saying the operation posed “immediate threat or danger to the health and safety of children.”

Action against the Galveston Multicultural Institute came after two young people in its care drowned off a Galveston beach during a group outing.

The institute operated under the umbrella of The Children’s Center, a nonprofit serving at-risk children through various programs. The institute was an emergency shelter providing temporary care to children in Child Protective Services custody.

The center’s president and CEO said Tuesday there were no plans to reopen the shelter.

“We’re reeling from this tragedy,” James “Terry” Keel said in a brief phone interview. “We’re trying to work through it.”

The institute housed children between the ages of 5 and 17, according to The Children’s Center’s website

On Oct. 14, two young men in the institute’s cared died in the surf off a Galveston beach.

Nicholas Garner, 16, and Noah Authement, 11, drowned in the Gulf of Mexico after going in the water near 17th Street. Garner was attempting to save Authement after the boy was caught in a rip current, but both were dragged out into the Gulf.

Authement’s body was found offshore on Oct. 16. Garner’s body has not been recovered.

The state of Texas launched at least two investigations into The Children’s Center after the drownings — one led by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services and another by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s child care licensing division.

The protective services department investigation is still active, but the health commission has informed the institute that it intends to revoke its permit to operate, said John Reynolds, an assistant press officer for the commission.

“After the Oct. 14 drowning incident, our inspectors found numerous and repeated deficiencies in meeting state standards in many areas including training and hiring staff, conducting background checks and maintaining records,” Reynolds said.

Records from an Oct. 15 inspection revealed none of the staff at the multicultural institute had water safety training.

The institute also lacked safety plans for children exhibiting high risk behaviors and records of needs assessments, immunizations and dental exams required under state law, according to the commission’s website.

A site inspection on Oct. 19 found mold and deteriorating conditions in some of the institute’s facilities, and as well as gnats in parts of the houses on Avenue N near 45th Street.

State laws require child care facilities to be structurally sound, clean and free of rodents and insects.

The institute ceased operations Dec. 11, according to state records.

Children who were being cared for at the Galveston facility had been sent to other facilities, Keel said.

The center asked for an administrative review of the commission’s revocation, Reynolds said. That review is underway.

The center asked for the review so it could ask questions of the state commission, not to appeal the decision, Keel said.

Closure of the institute could have further ramifications for The Children’s Center, which operates programs in both Galveston and Brazoria counties. Funds the center received as a Child Protective Services placement organization amounted to about a third of the organization’s budget, Keel said.

Closure of the institute was “very, very hurtful,” he said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(1) comment

Mojo Boogie

A tragedy, compounded by another tragedy. These kids need each other.

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