By Andrea Zimmerman
It’s not news to anyone that foster care is in crisis. It seems we’ve become accustomed to this reality and even somewhat apathetic to it, probably because it is so overwhelming and simultaneously kept behind the doors of state offices.
The State of Texas is changing this and has mandated that local communities confront the crisis among vulnerable families in their own communities by privatizing foster care with what is called Community Based Care. Under this model, CPS will handle investigations and removals, then a private agency will handle placements and case management.
Consequently, without the state’s placement network, children will no longer be sent to other communities with more resources and more foster homes. If you are asking, “Wait, we send children away?” The answer is “yes.” We send away A LOT of children and youth due to a lack of kinship support, foster homes, youth homes, and resources for complex needs.
In fact, of the approximately 450 children and youth whose cases originated in McLennan County, half are sent to other areas. Under Community Based Care, this will no longer be possible and our local community is expected to increase our capacity in every way to care for these children.
While this is a stunning and overwhelming change, if our community rises to this occasion and works together to care for our own children, keeping children close to home is proven to provide better long-term outcomes for both the child and the family of origin.
Keeping children and youth in their own communities means they remain close to their family of origin; they may stay in the same school and faith community and can maintain consistency in medical resources, not to mention their social structure. Older youth retain employment, schooling, and their support system. Proximity supports reunification efforts and enables the foster or kinship parent to provide support to the family of origin, as well.
This is a tall order for our community. We have a network of support in foster care, but we are stretched thin and have limited resources. We need help! We need more human and financial resources to make this work.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but the Families and Foster Care Coalition began efforts about a year ago to gather our resources and assess the landscape for this change. The needs are great, and we are working hard to increase capacity in our community.
One area that would help is the involvement of the faith community. While becoming a foster parent is a rare and unique call, becoming involved in the supportive work of foster care is a way the faith community could help in this crisis.
Kingwood Methodist Church, just outside Houston, shared a beautiful story of their work among youth in foster care in their community (watch or listen here). In that story, you can hear about Jason Johnson, who helped prepare their congregation for this work.
Jason will come to our Waco community April 13 to lead a faith congregation leader’s training workshop. This session will help equip leaders in the faith community with practical tools for starting the work of foster care in their congregations. This event is free, and childcare and lunch are provided. RSVP here.
This training workshop is the first step in preparing for this change headed our way. We would love for you to join us!
For more information about the Families and Foster Coalition, please visit:
Email: [email protected]
Find us on Facebook: Families and Foster Care Coalition
Find us on Instagram: ffcc_heartoftx
Andrea Zimmerman is coordinator of the Waco Families & Foster Care Coalition.