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AMIkids starts program
Wade Goss has 28 years of experience with 60 programs in eight states, but he admits he had no previous experience with the setup at the Savannah River site. For years, Goss has supervised adolescent boys who were sent to his facility because of misconduct. However, the boys in the program now at the camp on Old River Road are at the facility for a different reason. They needed a place to call “home.” The boys are ones who have been turned away from group homes. “This is my first experience with those who are not juvenile delinquents. These are just kids who don’t have home,” Goss said. “These kids just don’t have a home.” The facility, which re-opened just two months ago, originally was constructed to house Department of Juvenile Justice troubled boys for 90 days as the staff worked to rehabilitate them. But with the state strapped with financial woes in 2009, the program length was cut to 60 days to save funds. Then it dropped further to 30 days. Thirty days, Goss told Sylvania Rotarians at a weekly meeting, did not work. The facility then would became a “transition center” where 18, 19, 20-year-old inmates were housed right before their scheduled release. Goss said the staff and facility was not equipped to handle those types of adults. The facility closed. Goss said despite the closure he had staff at the facility year-round because the site needed to remain protected. The facility is located away from most Screven County residents in an area that is frequented by alligators. The facility was kept open, in terms of maintenance and security, at a cost of $200,000 per year. The facility is appraised at $6 million and a substancal investment for its non-profit owner. Goss said nobody seemed to want the property with its location. “We were brainstorming all kinds of ideas,” said Goss said, who was contacted about the possibility of group homes. The facility now houses children in foster care who have been troubled to adjust in other group homes. Currently, eight boys ranging in age from 11-17 live on one of the three campuses on site. Twenty staff members work on site and AMIkids is in search of a director. Goss said that when a child is not wanted at a group home, that child must be out of that group home within 72 hours. “They have no choice,” Goss said. “They would bounce around from one group home to another.” Goss said a contract has been signed to house 15 boys. “We are running a group home on steroids. We have eight kids now. We have seven more to go,” Goss said. “We hope it works and if it does, we would like to expand.” The long-term plans are to add more camps and bring more jobs to Screven County. Goss said he met with Screven County School System officials and have enrolled some of the boys into the district’s schools. For the one not enrolled in the local school system, they will be educated through the statewide program Georgia Virtual School, Goss said. “We are very, very active in the community and take trips,” said Goss, noting that some of the boys had never been to the beach. “Spiritually, it is a different feeling knowing you are working with a kid who is in a situation not fault of his own,” Goss said.