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LSS to Close the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, Plans to Refocus Children’s Programs in Dallas County

Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc. (LSS) announced today the closing of the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, Texas, effective in 30 days. The Nelson Center, which opened in 1996, is a residential treatment center that serves up to 65 children (ages 5-17) who have been past victims of abuse and neglect.  Most of the children are in the state foster care system and placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The property will be put up for sale and proceeds from the sale will help facilitate the potential transition of that program to Dallas County.

The decision to close the facility is based on several factors including the future of residential treatment services in the Metroplex area, pending foster care redesign in Texas, and the current placement hold at the facility.

“Given the current atmosphere of foster care redesign in the state of Texas, and the pressing need for an RTC in Dallas County, we are making the strategic decision to close the Nelson Center and begin the necessary steps to determine whether it is feasible to transition this and other programs to Dallas County,” said Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer for LSS.

State foster care redesign guidelines mandate that children in foster care remain in their home communities nearer to their biological families, schools, and social support systems. When children are removed from their home community for lack of a suitable place to go, it can add further trauma to their already troubled lives, making successful recovery more difficult. Currently, there are no residential treatment centers in Dallas County where the need is greatest. LSS also recruits and trains foster families with offices in Richardson and Mesquite as well as Fort Worth, serving more than 300 children in foster care in the Metroplex.

The Nelson Center has been on placement hold since July 9, 2011, as a result of three injuries that occurred in March 2011, when children were contained by staff after acting out aggressively. Under a placement hold, children who cycle out of the facility are not replaced by DFPS. Currently, there are 27 children at the 65-bed facility which is not financially sustainable. The length of the placement hold is undetermined, but LSS estimates it could last between 9-12 months.

“The Nelson Center has been a safe haven for more than two thousand children over the years. We are very proud of the program and the positive impact it has made on the lives of so many troubled children,” added Dr. Senske. “However, under the circumstances, we feel the time is right to determine if it is possible to relocate our services to Dallas County where the need is most critical.”

LSS plans to work with the Department of Family and Protective Services to provide a smooth transition for the children remaining at the Nelson Center over the next 30 days. Employees and staff will remain another 30 days after that to finalize the closing of the facility.

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