By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (October 20, 2016) – There’s a problem with the foster care system. But your family could help.
Currently, 1,400 children within a seven-county radius are living within the foster care system, according to Dustin Gist, foster family recruitment specialist for Foster’s Home for Children. He said between 150 and 200 children in the area are placed with foster families each month. Another 100 face being placed in emergency shelters or other conditions that are nothing like real homes.
Gist said the problem is the lack of licensed foster families. But, Foster’s Home for Children has stepped up to be a part of the solution. The nonprofit organization is working in conjunction with All Church Home Child and Family Services (ACH) and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to locate and qualify families who are willing and able to open their hearts and homes to affected children.
“We at Foster’s Home have decided we want to license families in the community to serve as foster homes,” Gist said.
Local families who have considered fostering and those who have questions about providing foster care are encouraged to attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Foster’s Home administration building.
The effort is a part of a statewide program. The Foster Care Redesign initiative was a signed into law in 2011. In 2014, ACH was awarded the contract to oversee the local foster care provider network. Our Community Our Kids, a division of ACH operates in Erath, Palo Pinto, Parker, Hood, Somervell, Johnson and Tarrant counties.
As a whole, the redesign initiative has a number of guiding principles. According to DFPS, the state will do everything possible to ensure children are placed alongside their siblings in foster homes within their own communities. The state aims to help children maintain connections with family members and other individuals who play an important role in their lives.
“The families we help obtain licensing should only have children from within the seven-county area placed in their homes,” Gist said. “The premise is to keep children as close to home as possible.”
Previously, a child from Stephenville could end up in Houston and vice versa, which made maintaining familial bonds hard – or impossible. The old system also took children away from their schools, community activities and other involvements.
“Now, the focus is on making things as easy on the kids as possible and making the decisions that are best for them,” Gist said.
The effort includes integrating children into families that will accept them as one of their own and include them in everyday activities like enjoying a Friday night football game, soccer practice after school and worship on Sunday.
Gist said while becoming licensed is rewarding, it’s also an intensive process including eight to nine two-and-a-half hour classes, teaching skills like first aid, CPR and aggressive behavior management. Families must also undergo background checks, home studies and meet other requirements.
For more information, contact Gist at (936) 520-8559.