Changing the Lives of Children,
Giving Children a Future,
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse!
Boys & Girls Harbor was founded in 1947 by the members of Houston’s Downtown Optimist Club with the support of many prominent Houston business and civic leaders. Texas Governor Ross Sterling and his wife donated their 21,000 square-foot mansion in Morgan’s Point, Texas, overlooking Galveston Bay to the Optimist Club to be used as the first home for “Boys Harbor.”
As approaches to caring for children changed, the Harbor’s Board of Directors chose to sell the mansion with its large orphanage-like environment and relocate the campus across the street on land partially purchased from and partially donated by the Sterlings. In 1962, four family-style homes were built, with additional buildings and support facilities added over the years. In the early 1980s, three new brick homes were built for girls and the organization’s name was changed to Boys & Girls Harbor, Inc.
The mission of Boys & Girls Harbor is to provide healthy, comprehensive care for children and families in crisis. For children who are experiencing family hardship, neglect, abandonment or abuse, the Harbor provides a family environment in a home setting. Through its programs, the Harbor strives to help children learn to overcome self-destructive patterns, break cycles of abuse, develop social skills, learn responsibility, and work towards becoming healthy, happy and productive members of society.
Who Lives At The Harbor?
The average age of a child living at the Harbor is 10 to 12 years, with approximately 50% boys and 50% girls. The average length of stay is two to three years; however, some children may spend their entire childhood at the Harbor. Each year the Harbor provides residential care for over 100 children. Since its inception, thousands of children have called the Harbor their home.
Boys and Girls Harbor offer many avenues to achievement for the children. For more information, please visit http://www.boysandgirlsharbor.org. In addition to residential care, Boys & Girls Harbor provides a full array of programs and services to provide children with the knowledge, life skills, and experiences they need to be successful when it comes time to leave the Harbor. Each of these programs serves a different function in the growth and development of the children
Boys & Girls Harbor provides shelter, food, clothing, education, counseling, health care, recreation, and most importantly, a stable family life in an environment where children can thrive. Children five to eighteen years of age live in homes staffed by trained, full-time, live-in house parents who provide guidance and stability for the children. Each home is designed to accommodate either eight boys or eight girls. Almost all the important lessons of life the children learn take place in the family structure with the house parents as mentors. The expansive campus also includes a charter school, gym, baseball field, playgrounds, and a working farm.
The Harbor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization licensed as a General Residential Operation (GRO) by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to serve up to 88 children. The Harbor is not a Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Therefore, we do not serve children who have serious emotional or behavioral needs requiring a more restrictive environment or medical supervision.
Each year the Harbor cares for over a hundred children, and thousands of children have called the Harbor their home since it first opened in 1947.
Transitional Living Program
When children at the Harbor reach age 16, they have the opportunity to participate in the Transitional Living program. This program teaches the life skills they will need to become independent, self-sufficient adults. Still under the close supervision of their house parents, participants in the Transitional Living Program take on more responsibility for daily chores like grocery shopping and meal preparation. They also learn how to manage a bank account and budget their funds. With self-sufficiency comes independence and success is rewarded with special privileges.
The goal of the Transitional Living program is to teach young men and women at the Harbor about the rewards and challenges of adulthood just as a loving parent would do for their children.
The Harbor Academy Charter School
Many of the children who come to the Harbor have not attended school regularly. They may be making failing grades and are at risk of
dropping out of school. Children often need intervention and consistent support if they are to have a chance at overcoming their education deficits. To address this problem, the Harbor entered into a partnership with an established charter school to operate The Harbor Academy under their charter as a satellite program on the Harbor campus. The partnership allows the Harbor to continue its focus on being a provider of quality residential services, while at the same time having a charter school provider bring their expertise to our children who need additional education support. The education program has smaller teacher-student ratios than those found in public school classrooms, provides individualized education plans for each student, offers increased choices of learning opportunities, and uses different and innovative learning methods. The Harbor Academy is an “open enrollment” charter school for children in kindergarten through the eighth grade.
Athletics & Team Sports
The Harbor’s athletic program gives each boy and girl the chance to develop as both an individual and a team player. Through sports, children learn the importance of following rules, self-discipline, and how to take responsibility for their actions. Following rules can be the difference between winning or losing a game, or being successful in life experiences outside of sports. They learn being responsible gives them more control over a situation and helps build self-esteem. The athletic program also gives children the opportunity to develop leadership skills while playing on one of the Harbor’s teams.
Gym Basketball Class: The campus includes a large gymnasium where the children play basketball and volleyball. The Harbor also has a baseball field with bleachers for spectators. In addition to intramural games, Harbor teams also compete against other residential care programs, churches, and private schools in the area.
Sporting events bring the campus together with children, house parents, and staff cheering on the Harbor Rams and reinforces the feeling of community.
Children at the Harbor have the opportunity to participate in the FFA Agriculture program. The home for the Harbor’s agriculture program is a 4,000 square foot barn that was completed in 2013. Children at the Harbor are able to raise a variety of animals ranging from chickens and turkeys to hogs and steers.
Raising an animal teaches the children responsibility and, if their animal sells at auction, the satisfaction of hard work and savings in the bank.
There are many scientific studies that prove caring for an animal is therapeutic and provides unconditional love and affection.
As many children do in the summer, children at the Harbor take a break from studying and participate in summer activities.
Following are some examples of the different programs and activities children from the Harbor get to do during a typical summer.
Attend day and sleep away camp programs (Camp Allen, Camp Peniel, Eddie Gray Wetlands Center Camp, ExxonMobil Summer Science Camp).
Participate in numerous parties hosted by local area churches.
Ride the Boardwalk Beast boat ride in Kemah. Spend an evening at the Main Event in Webster hosted by a corporate sponsor that includes bowling, games, and a pizza party.
Participate in a surf day, including surfing lessons, in Galveston.
Enjoy a day at Pirates Bay Water Park in Baytown. Cool off during several “water days” sponsored by various groups who brought inflatable bounce houses and water slides to the campus.
Swimming, bowling, movies, and picnics with cottage house parents.
The highlight of each summer is the annual summer trip that is both fun and educational as the house parents and campus staff take the children on a special vacation before they return to school.
Host Family Program
Many children at the Harbor spend alternating weekends, holidays, and a portion of the summer with their Host Family. Host Families are volunteers who invite a child, or children, from the Harbor into their homes to become a part of their family during Host Family visits. Spending time off-campus with a Host Family gives children at the Harbor the opportunity to experience the daily routine and activities of family life in the community. Visits with Host Families include whatever activities they may have planned, for example, going to a sporting event, barbecuing in the backyard, spending time at the neighborhood swimming pool, or going to a movie. The Host Family program makes it possible for children at the Harbor to
spend time away from the campus, meet new friends, and participate in community activities.
If you are interested in learning more about the Host Family program, please contact Angela Bozant, Social Services, at (281) 471-9622 ext.101.
PRESIDENT & CEO Don Sweat
"Simply stated, Boys & Girls Harbor changes lives!
Support from the community makes it possible for us to give at-risk children who live at that Harbor a real childhood that many have never experienced. Our kids learn the skills they need to succeed now and as adults who will go on to raise their own healthy families."
For more information, please visit www.boysandgirlsharbor.org.