Officials discuss missing teens, Black Mountain youth home

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Authorities from Buncombe and Polk counties are still searching for four teens missing from Black Mountain Home For Children, Youth and Families. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Authorities from Buncombe and Polk counties are still searching for four missing teens out of Black Mountain.

Emily Rebekah Garcia, her twin sister Abigail Garcia, Cameron Templin and Sara Pannell were last seen in the Black Mountain area on the evening of Feb. 9, 2020.

Authorities said they are all from Black Mountain Home For Children, Youth and Families.

On Thursday night, officials from the youth home led the annual youth perspective meeting. Officials said they hold the meeting every year so kids can provide suggestions on how the youth home can do better.

Kids suggested things like tree houses, additional parks and other recreational additions.

There was no mention of the missing teens at the meeting.

News 13 asked officials while they were there.

"I really can't comment about that. When we have challenging circumstances with the kids, the counties of placement are in loco parentis, so anything that deals with those kinds of situations really has to go through those counties of placement," said Sarah Thomas, the youth home's media coordinator.

At the meeting, the youth home's president said the nonprofit youth home currently houses 76 people ranging from children to young adults.

"They're placed here primarily through the Department of Social Services because of challenges within their family, things like abuse, abandonment, homelessness and neglect," Thomas said.

Thomas said she could not go into detail about the policies they have in place to handle cases like missing children nor could she detail any of the home's security measures they have in place on campus.

However, she did say the home is committed to serving its kids.

"One of the most important things we do is make them feel safe. A lot of times, they come from circumstances where that hasn't been a priority or where they just feel insecure," Thomas said.

She invited people to visit the campus.

"Anyone who has any doubts or questions about Black Mountain Home For Children, I would encourage them to come out and visit," Thomas said.

A spokesperson for the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office said they are continuing to work with local law enforcement to pursue tips and said they have dedicated additional resources to the search.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the missing teenagers is asked to contact Detective Scott Piper with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office at 828-250-4448; the Polk County Division of Social Services at 828-894-2100 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday or 828-894-0188 after hours; or Asheville-Buncombe CrimeStoppers at 828-255-5050.