In 1971 a man named Tommy Robinson founded Boys Country on 10 acres of land in Hockley, Texas. Boys Country housed homeless boys. The organization had the boys work the land while being taught a trait, and were then sent on their way.
Following the addition of a Girl’s Country facility in 1980, the Boys and Girls Country were combined in 1993.
As the times have changed so have the methods and mission of this organization. Today Boys and Girl Country houses, feeds, and loves 88 children per year.
Boys and Girls Country aims to change the lives of children from families in crisis by loving and nurturing them in a Christian home environment, raising them to become self-sustaining and contributing adults.
“We provide a Christian home for children from all over Houston whose families are in some sort of crisis situation,” said Liz Bear, community outreach manager for Boys and Girls Country. “This could be any number of things from being in a situation where there is only one parent working who is unable to be home when the kids are, to children living with a grandparent who recently got sick.”
Many of the children in Boys and Girls Country have never had a dedicated parent and have moved constantly between different family members.
What the Boys and Girls Country does that separates them from foster placing agencies, like the previously featured non-profit Houston Achievement Place, is that they don’t just find a home for the children, but create one large home for all the children to be a part of.
Boys and Girls Country has eleven cottages on their property. Each cottage homes eight children and two teaching parents. The teaching parents are all married couples who live with the children and care for them
The teaching parents work eight day shifts with four day breaks. They also have single people, usually recent college graduates, who rotate daily. The teaching parents all devote themselves to the children in their cottage as an act of missionary work.
“We follow a Christian mission, and what that means for us is that every cottage family goes to a different church in the community and all the children are part of the youth group in each of those,” said Bear. “We also have daily devotional in the cottage, where we read a bible passage, and say a group prayer.”
Bear explained that Boys and Girls Country has nothing to do with conversion, so much as it has to do with their families giving all they can to the children.
The teaching parents are trained to follow a teaching family model which works to teach eight basic life skills, such as how to prepare a meal, how to disagree appropriately, and how to make a hard decision.
“We teach them these things because these kids come from struggling families,” said Bear, “and they get their needs met through acting out and other methods that are effective in a crisis mode.”
In order to teach accountability, each family sits together once a week and each student rates themselves and each other based on how they feel they are fulfilling different skills.
The children’s behavior and actions determine their privileges.
“For example if they are getting really great grades or things of that nature, they will get privileges like more TV time or even a new car,” said Bear. “Kids that aren’t doing so well may have to go to bed early and have more study time.”
Although Boys and Girls Country works to create a lifelong family for these children, they also encourage the biological families to stay involved. The children are placed in Boys and Girls Country by the families and not by CPS or other organizations. The parents retain parental rights and allow for Boys and Girls Country to become the guardians.
“Of course, we do want families to reunite, but when we take in a child we plan to be that child’s family for life,” said Bear. “Even during their life in college, we continue to be their family and support them mentally and financially.”
On average it costs Boys and Girls Country $150 to care for each child each day.
Boys and Girls Country is always in need of after school tutors for the children, and volunteers for special events.
“One of my favorite events is the senior night, when all of our seniors get all dressed up and come together for one big celebration,” said Bear. “Each senior gets up and talks about their story and how the organization has helped them. It’s about recognizing how far each child has come and them telling the younger kids that they can do this too.”
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Boys and Girls Country family visit www.boysandgirlscountry.org.