By JACOB MAYER (email@example.com)
The adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan visited Amarillo on Thursday to meet with children in foster care and challenge the community to help children who have been abused or are in the foster care system.
“We have swept the children of America underneath a blanket, and we’re afraid to look and see what’s going on with our own children and see what we can do to help,” said Reagan, who was adopted by Ronald Reagan as a child.
Reagan spoke to a crowd of about 200 people Thursday at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts to share his stories from his book “Twice Adopted” and of being sexually abused as a child when he was in third grade.
“Too many of us children who have gone through this think we are the only ones that actually went through it; nobody else is going through what we went through,” he said.
Reagan said he didn’t tell his father about his abuse until 1987, which was 34 years after he was abused.
Reagan has served as Arrow Child & Family Ministries’ national spokesman since 2004, and he is the founder of Arrow’s Michael Reagan Center for Advocacy and Research in Houston.
Jolenna Wright of Amarillo said she was particularly interested in hearing Reagan’s story and learning about Arrow because she was adopted when she was 10 years old.
Wright said she thinks Reagan’s message to help abused or neglected children is vital for the entire community because helping one child could eventually help many more children.
“For me, it’s looking for a family that will appreciate what you do and raise you and pay it forward like (Reagan) is doing,” Wright said. “He’s paying it forward.”
Arrow Child and Family Ministries in Amarillo hosted the event to alert the community to the foster care services the organization provides, as well as the needs of children in foster care, said Keith Howard, state director of the organization.
Mark Tennant founded Arrow in 1992 in Austin. He said he was placed in foster care from age 11 to 18 in Pennsylvania.
Since Arrow moved into the former Panhandle Assessment Center facilities in 2010, Tennant said the organization has learned how little people know about children in foster care and how many children are in need of a home.
“What we’ve learned is that a lot of folks have not been too keenly aware of the plight of kids in the Panhandle,” he said. “They’ve not been aware of the nature of abuse or the number of cases that have been investigated.”
The event also served as a fundraiser for the organization to renovate the property at 4655 S. Farm-to-Market Road 1258 that it purchased from Panhandle Assessment Center about a year and a half ago, Howard said.
He said the organization recently began working on a three-year, $2.5-million capital campaign for renovations and new shelters.
About $1.5 million is planned for new shelters that could each accommodate 20 children, one for boys and one for girls, he said.
He said the current shelter can hold as many as 32 children. On average, about 21 children stay in the shelters, he said.
About 360 children in Potter and Randall counties live in foster care, Howard said.
The organization also honored the Amarillo Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children during the event with the 2012 Ambassador of Purpose award for its service to children.
CASA represents children to maintain their rights in court proceedings, Howard said.
Although he has spent many years helping abused children and bringing awareness to the situation, Reagan said he thinks society still has a lot of work to do in terms of helping children in foster care.
“We lag way behind, and those things have truly got to change,” he said.