Family Support Services traces its roots back more than a century
In 2022, Family Support Services celebrated its 114th anniversary of serving children and families in the Texas Panhandle. The agency traces its roots to the very beginning of social services in Amarillo.
In 1908, a group of businessmen met in the old Amarillo City Hall to form the first charitable organization in Amarillo. It was then that Family Support Services’ rich history began. Mr. Charles Fisk was elected President of the organization named the Associated Charities. It was later called the United Charities and, eventually, the Social Welfare Association through reorganizations in 1917, 1921, and 1927.
In 1949, the Travelers Aid Society and the Social Welfare Association were merged to form Family Service of Amarillo.
The High Plains Women’s Political Caucus established the Amarillo Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Service in 1975. RCSAS was organized and later incorporated to assist rape survivors and their families. In September 1978 the Domestic Violence Council was formed, and in 1979 the Junior League conducted a needs assessment study that began the initial planning for the domestic violence shelter. By February 1983 the Domestic Violence Council merged with Rape Crisis to form the Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Center.
Finally, in January 1993, Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Center merged with Family Guidance Center to form Family Support Services. Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Center had been working in crisis intervention, shelter, and advocacy; Family Guidance Center had focused on long-term counseling and had begun parenting classes. Both agencies were in dire need of larger facilities. So, with the encouragement of the United Way, Amarillo Area Foundation and Amarillo’s community leaders, a merger was initiated.
The two agencies were both housed at 900 S. Lincoln. Family Support Services now employed 34 full and part-time staff.
Soon after the merger, a capital campaign was begun to raise funds to purchase and renovate the “old Southern Furniture building” at 10th and Polk. That campaign raised over 1.1 million dollars at its completion in the fall of 1994. In November 1994 Family Support Services moved its administrative, counseling, family violence, sexual assault, and education services to the new home of 16,000 square foot.
In September 1995, Family Support Services opened Center City Child Care as a service to working parents of the community, employees, and clients. The main goals of the program are to keep children safe and healthy allowing them to maximize their potential. Family Support Services promotes the best quality childcare at an affordable price.
In 1996, the Harrington Foundation funded a pilot program in Hereford combining traditional social work and community development with a faith community and local church. The San Jose Community Center served a low and middle income, mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Hereford. The community center was turned over to the local community in 1998.
In 1997, the FSS Education Division expanded with a school-based family strengthening program – FAST (Families and Schools Together) to Amarillo schools. FAST was a family-based program held at a local school for a set period of weeks. This nationally affiliated program was later replaced with Strengthening Families, which has been highly successful and has been honored by the Amarillo Independent School District.
Over the years, other programs have been added to expand the Education Division to its current services for more than 15,000 children each year. Programs are developed in response to community issues including child abuse, sexual violence, peer leadership, and substance abuse.
The Polk Street Boutique, adjacent to the main offices of FSS, began as a for-profit thrift store in April 2000. The Boutique served all persons with a special mission for low-income families. Agency clients were able to shop with vouchers. In 2009, FSS initiated a collaboration with the Downtown Women’s Center thrift store to serve agency clients, and closed the Boutique.
In 2010, Center City Child Care closed. The small center did not meet a unique need in the community, and it was determined that agency resources would be better allocated to services unduplicated by other providers.
In 2013, FSS began discussions with several community stakeholders regarding the need for a Veteran Resource Center in downtown Amarillo. There was no “one-stop” location for veterans needing help, and many were living in shelters or were homeless in the downtown area. With a grant from Texas Panhandle Centers, the old Center City Child Care space was repurposed to become the Veteran Resource Center. The VRC opened in August 2014 and has served hundreds of veterans since its inception, providing housing assistance, job training and placement, counseling, peer support, benefits processing, and many other services.
In January 2020, FSS experienced a devastating loss when the main offices and VRC were lost in a fire. The resilient staff immediately set up operations at several temporary locations to continuing serving the community. The main offices are at 7136 West Interstate 40, in Park West B, an AISD-owned property. A permanent location for the Veterans Resource Center was purchased in 2021 at 800 S. Rusk, one block away from the future home of FSS located at 2209 S 7th Avenue in Amarillo.
As of 2022, FSS operates four program divisions – Behavioral Health & Wellness, Advocacy and Emergency Housing Services, Education and Prevention, and Veterans Resources. The agency has experienced growth with 70 staff and additional services and an increase in people served. The new home office building, originally built as the Medical Tower Building in 1960, is currently being renovated to be a state-of-the-art facility through an energy efficiency program, and will be the largest home office in the history of FSS, with room to provide enhanced services to the people we serve.