Schools & Program
Visits - Aug, 2000 Issue #72
Newman Lake, Washington
Tom Carter, Owner
June 17th Visit By:
Loi Eberle, M.A. Educational Consultant
Tom Carter, PhD. is the director/psychologist who with his wife,
Kathy, operates a beautiful ranch home in Newman Lake, for boys 11-17. Shamrock Acres was the first licensed foster home in the state
of Washington, and was formerly run by the O’Donnell’s, who still live nearby and keep in touch with the program. The boys are housed
with the Carter family in a large, comfortable ranch-home. They are licensed to have 24 boys at the ranch, with up to six boys in
each bedroom. It was hard for me to imagine that some of the bedrooms were inhabited by that many boys, since the rooms were so clean
and orderly, with personal items organized neatly in each boy’s area. Tom is quick to mention that he makes sure the boys spend little
time in the bedrooms during the day, to avoid laying there feeling sorry for themselves.
Most of the boys in this program attend a suburban public school
in Spokane Valley, catching the school bus that stops at the end of the road. Those who attend the public school are required to participate
in sports, and maintain their grades. According to Tom, the teachers are quite enthusiastic about this program, because of the close
interaction it maintains with the teachers, and the academic support they receive at the ranch. Tom will home-school new arrivals
until he develops enough trust in them to let them be in a public setting. They also are accredited, and when motivated, students
can quickly make up missed credits and complete their high school diploma, if needed, in this home-school setting.
Tom Carter is quite the sports enthusiast. A former boxer and marine,
he also was on the president’s drug task force during an earlier administration. On display in his office are signed photos of U.S.
Presidents and bats and baseballs from players whose names you’d recognize. I learned that the individually- signed group photograph
of ten NASA astronauts had been sent to Shamrock Acres as a result of correspondence initiated by some of the Shamrock students.
The Shamrock ranch home was comfortable and attractive, with a spacious
kitchen and a large living room where the boys and Carter family would meet and interact in the evening. In the dining room, a huge
long table accommodated all the program participants and the Carter family at meals. When I was visiting, some of the boys were helping
Kathy in the kitchen, preparing for the evening meal. They spoke highly of the program when I asked their opinion about referring
someone in their situation to Shamrock Acres. The boys cheerfully cut lettuce while having friendly exchanges with Kathy Carter, who
is soon expecting the birth of her second child, providing youthful companionship for their two year old. A few more boys entered
the kitchen, one obviously a little upset. Tom instantly discussed this with the boy, and Tom’s comments appeared to address the boy’s
issues to both of their satisfaction.
Next to the kitchen was a large, clean and well-organized room for
extra laundry and program gear. Tom also showed me a large room with a few computers, used for homework and small classes. Then we
went outside, to a large porch, from which Tom showed me well- kept grounds and some of the boy’s projects, including the recently
completed gazebo. In addition to caring for the various animals, there were large gardens where some residents were working, after
playing basketball. Only one house separates Shamrock Acres from Newman Lake, where the boys occasionally swim. Sometimes the boys
also visit the former directors, the O’Donnell’s, who live on the lake, a few houses away.
I had the opportunity to talk at length to a former program resident
who had returned for the summer to do a college internship at the ranch. He felt the experience at the ranch had been life-changing,
and spoke highly of his interaction with Tom Carter.
My overall impression was that Tom and Kathy Carter provided a stable,
loving home life, with some pretty tight structure and expectations. Tom seemed accessible, able to both perceive a boy’s issues,
and provide the appropriate interaction for a given situation. He seemed to understand the need for motivation as well as structure.
The Carters offer a home-away from home for those boys who need love, guidance, and structure, and they gave me the impression that
they would be there for those boys as long as was needed. Indeed, some boys have lived here for a number of years.
Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
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