Children sleeping in state offices due to foster parent shortage

Makeshift room for foster children at CPS office in Austin. (Courtesy: DFPS)
Makeshift room for foster children at CPS office in Austin. (Courtesy: DFPS)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a running crisis in the state of Texas: too many foster children and not enough foster parents.

The Department of Family and Protective Services says the shortage of foster parents has led to hundreds of children having to sleep in state office buildings instead of a real bedroom in the past six months. Child Protective Services says the influx of foster children without placement occurred after several facilities across Texas closed down.

State officials say the number of available foster parents isn’t able to keep up with the rising number of children who have been removed from troubled homes.

In Region 7, which houses the Austin office, a spokesperson for CPS says case workers are currently on an 8-hour shift rotation to watch children who are in the office. Region 7, which covers 30 counties, had 1,722 children in foster care in April 2016.

According to State Officials most of the children who recently spent at least two nights in state offices came from the Dallas area. Sixty-seven children were in and out from December to April. The next biggest group of children came from the Houston area. Forty-two in the last five months. In that same time frame, 18 children came from the San Antonio area. And seven children came from Austin.

“We have a transitional living program working with kids ages 16 and up,” said Stacy Bruce, CEO of Austin Children’s Shelter. She says she received a call from child protective services last week. A handful of foster kids, mostly teenagers needed a place to sleep.  They asked if they could stay in one of their five cottages at Rathgeber Village.

“We certainly prefer that kids have their own rooms and we do the best we can for that. This is the room for one of our kiddos who’s been staying with us for a few days,” said Bruce.

The need has been constant for years but the state closed problem facilities where foster kids stayed across the Texas. She describes an emergency and says CPS needs parents to step up.

“We’d be happy to have single parents, male and female. We also embrace LGBTQIA families who are looking to complete their families or provide services to these kids,” said Bruce.

“Probably the biggest challenge is not knowing the children’s story. Not knowing what they’ve been through. They can only write so much on a piece of paper,” said Chylain Krivensky. She has two biological kids and two foster kids, a one month old and a two year old.

She became a foster parent through the Settlement Home for Children and loves being a mom.

“The best part is just knowing you’re that safe place. That you are able to be there and give them the hugs and the cuddles that they need right then and there,” said Krivensky.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, click here to get the process started.

If you can’t foster but want to help, CPS is taking donations for the children at the state offices. Items they need: size 5 diapers , shampoo and deodorant for the teens as well as athletic shorts for teens. The items can be dropped off at 14000 Summit Drive, Austin, Texas.

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