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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 without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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