Panhandle Spirit: Amarillo Angels
AMARILLO, Texas —
At any given time, more than 1,000 kids here in Amarillo are in the foster care system. A group of volunteers, called the Amarillo Angels, has made it their mission to help those kids through that difficult challenge, as well as those who open their homes to these kids, in hopes of giving those children a better life.
Gwen Hicks is the volunteer Executive Director of the group, which was launched just over a year ago. She says it provides a way for volunteers who can’t provide a foster home to still play a vital role in the process.
“They have the capability and the opportunity to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” Hicks said.
And the statistics show how tragic that trajectory can be. On average, kids in foster care move seven times in two years. That instability often leads to tragic outcomes.
“Within the first year of children aging out of the system, at 18, and 97% of those kids choose to do so, 66% will be homeless, incarcerated, trafficked, or die.”
The volunteers play an active role in supporting these kids through a variety of programs, such as the Love Box. They’re connected to a family, and once a month, deliver a box of small gifts and necessities to the child. They also build a relationship with the foster parents, who also can become overwhelmed by the addition of a foster child. More than half of them quit after a year because of a lack of support.
“When that extra layer of support is added, we find that the families stay fostering longer, which is better for the kids that are in foster care. It eases the huge numbers of transitions they have. They stay in school longer. They learn to build relationships together. It just goes on and on. It’s a positive snowball,” said Hicks.
The Angels also have various events throughout the year. For example, during the past prom season, volunteers collected a huge variety of formal dresses and outfits for the kids, and turned part of their storage area into a boutique to help them enjoy the full experience. Hicks says she’s optimistic about the potential impact the group will have on foster kids and their families, thanks to the Panhandle Spirit that inspires people to help those in need.
“We know it’s working. We see changes in kids when they feel supported, loved, and encouraged, and we see that also with the families, and it’s just a beautiful model.”