GALVESTON

The Children’s Center, a nonprofit providing shelter and other resources to abandoned, neglected and orphaned children, has shut down two programs because of funding struggles amid a state review launched after the drowning deaths last year of two children in its care.

The Children’s Center voluntarily relinquished its operating licenses for the Jameson Center, a foster care placement program, on March 29, and for Brazoria County Youth Homes, a residential facility for children, on April 30, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Ending the programs was part of a organizational restructuring, James “Terry” Keel, executive director of the Children’s Center, said.

“We had an option of continuing or not continuing, and we opted not to continue,” Keel said. “We’re moving forward in as positive a way as possible.”

Although it was still licensed, the Brazoria County program had been dormant for more than two years, Keel said. The shelter program in Freeport had closed in 2016, but the building had been reopened to house Galveston County residents after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, according to The Facts newspaper of Brazoria County.

The Jameson Center, opened in 1996, had worked with Texas Child Protective Services to provide foster homes for children in Galveston, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Harris counties. Its staff members also trained and monitored foster families in the region.

The Children’s Center gave up the two licenses after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission shut down a third affiliated program, the Galveston Multicultural Institute, during an investigation into the deaths of two children in the institute’s care.

The institute provided emergency care to children in state custody.

Nicholas Garner, 16, drowned Oct. 14 as he was attempting to save another boy, Noah Authement, 11, who had been caught in a rip current at a seawall beach near 17th Street, officials said.

Both boys were being cared for at the multicultural institute after being placed there by the state’s foster care system, officials said.

After their deaths, the health commission moved to revoke the institute’s license to operate, citing an immediate threat or danger to the health or safety of children.

The commission is still reviewing the decision to revoke the center’s license and not sending children to the institute, officials said.

Suspension of the institute program would be a financial hit to The Children’s Center, because it would no longer receive money through the state’s foster care program, Keel said last fall.

It is only one of many challenges the 141-year-old organization has faced in recent years.

In February, Garner’s mother sued The Children’s Center seeking millions of dollars in damages. A jury trial for that lawsuit is scheduled for May, according to court records.

The Children’s Center also lost significant funding in 2016 when the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement canceled a contract with the nonprofit to care for unaccompanied minors apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The center reported a total revenue of $4.8 million in 2017, according to publicly available tax documents. The year before, it had reported revenue of $10.8 million.

Most of the center’s revenue came from foster care services and government grants, according to the tax documents.

The tax documents also show that therapeutic foster care, which was provided through Jameson Center, made up nearly half of the center’s expenses in 2017. The center reported a total of $4.7 million in expenses that year. Of that, $2.3 million, or 49.5 percent of expenses, were spent on therapeutic foster care.

Other center programs, including a crisis center for homeless families and a transitional learning program for young people who have aged out of the state’s foster care system, are still active, Keel said.

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

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