A Home for Every Child

by Chrystal Smith

For our #childwelfarewisdom series, we wanted to help our community understand the current need for more foster homes in Texas. As news stories continue to swirl around children sleeping in CPS offices and the shortage of foster homes in Texas, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there has never been a greater need for community support around these children and families in crisis.

What is happening?

In 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed alleging that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) was endangering children in the state’s custody. In 2015, Texas child welfare officials were ordered to implement reforms and overhaul the state’s foster care system. A large focus has been on concerns around the safety of children in group home and residential treatment center (RTC) settings. As stricter protocols, higher standards, and the stressors brought on by the pandemic have increased over this past year, many group homes, RTCs, and shelters have had to close their doors. This has left Texas with 1000 less beds for children in state custody. At the same time, we are starting to see an uptick of children entering care this year.

Bottomline, Texas is currently experiencing a critical shortage of suitable placement options for children in state custody.

What does this mean?

Many of our children with the highest acuity of needs due to their trauma histories literally have nowhere to go. Residential treatment centers have limited capacity. Mental health facilities are full and/or not contracted with the state. Foster homes are full and/or only licensed for children with less intense needs. DFPS puts out statewide (and sometimes nationwide) searches for a suitable home for each of these children with no options for immediate placement.

What needs to happen?

We need to:

  1. Continue to support preventative measures to keep children with family whenever it’s a safe and viable option.
  2. Retain our existing foster parents by supporting them every step of the way. Our state cannot afford to lose any more foster homes.
  3. We need an army of ready caregivers to step up for these waiting children. Ideally, we need folks who have experience working with children who are carrying intense trauma, professionals in the mental health field, retired teachers who understand the needs of children with difficult behaviors, households with a stay-at-home parent, anyone willing to go through the training to become specialized in this arena, including homes that have space for a teenager who just needs someone to believe in them.

We have seen these kids thrive in the right homes, but Texas needs folks to rise up in a big way. Even if we had just 20 homes step up to become licensed to care for children with higher acuity needs, we could get children in Central Texas out of offices and into homes. This is an attainable goal.

How can the community help?

When these families step up to provide a home for these children, they will need all of our support. They will need quick and easy access to professional services at the ready. They will need meals. They will need encouragement. They will need respite care. They will need resources, and they will need all of our prayers.

We have seen so many children heal from heartbreaking trauma when given access to the services and the support that they need. But they need families to heal with, and those families need us.

As we continue to band together with trusted partner organizations to bridge the gaps for Texas’ children in crisis, we will continue sharing updates about ways the community can support the needs. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent or if you’re an existing foster parent wanting to learn more about opening your home to a child without placement, please sign up here and we will contact you about upcoming info sessions with child placement agencies who are leading efforts to get these kids into homes. If you want to stay in the loop about ways to support these kids and the families who do step up, please sign up here and we’ll be in touch.

Let’s get these kids into healing homes surrounded by a village of support!