AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of children need a home right now in Texas. Wednesday, the state is hosting a summit to encourage faith-based groups to play a larger role in the foster care system. The need for foster families is so high, at-risk children are staying in hotels and Child Protective Services office buildings.
Last week, DPS troopers were forced to step in and help the state look for at-risk children after the head of the Department of Family and Protective Services, Hank Whitman, told lawmakers he did not have enough people to see hundreds of children with reported abuse or neglect.
But locating children is just the start. Many believe the state’s infrastructure for at-risk children is also struggling to get by.
Adoptions in Texas
- 6,596 – The monthly average number of children in Texas Foster Care who were awaiting adoption last year. This was a 2 percent decline from the previous year.
- 213 in Travis County
- 41 in Hays County
- 50 in Williamson County
- 6,388 – The number of children in DFPS care who were awaiting adoption as of September 2016 (latest data available).
- 5,672 – The number of children adopted from Texas foster care in fiscal year 2016. That is 3.2 percent increase from the previous year.
“We were shocked with the number of children who were in foster care,” said Kris Calder. After her and her husband, Eric Calder, found out they were unable to have biological children, their home became a safe place for five foster children from Texas. Nine-year-old Connor and 8-year-old Thomas became a permanent part of their family in less than a year. The Calders share custody of 5-year-old Abigail.
“This is an all hands kind of a thing. This isn’t a sit back and let other people do the work. We all have to be accountable here,” said Kris, about the crisis at CPS and the need for foster care parents.
The Calders worked lock-step with Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, a faith-based group child placement agency that has worked for years to recruit families like the Calders to foster at-risk children.
Wednesday, they’ll talk at Faith Leaders Summit on foster care at the Texas Capitol. Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks faith-based groups to help with the child crisis in the state. Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services will speak about their Mission 1:27, meant to encourage Texans to donate to group supporting foster families or become ones themselves.
This year, a federal judge has deemed the Texas child welfare system unconstitutional because children often leave worse off than they enter. “In coming back from their coldest, scariest days, that they have somebody that will just be there to them, somebody that they can count on,” said Calder.
Kris hopes to play her part and convince others to become foster parents, whose biggest hold-up isn’t the past life of a child but the fear of letting a temporary child placement reunite with a family. “I can’t imagine not having taken the risk and not being the mother to the three beautiful children that I have. Because if I wouldn’t have taken the risk. I wouldn’t be a mom.”
In addition to finding strong foster parents, social workers said retaining them is a tough task.
“Foster families need support. They need friends,” said Lesley Guthrie, a DFPS spokeswoman. “They need someone to watch the children so they can take a night out.”
The timing of Wednesday’s summit is significant. November is National Adoption Month.