Two children drawing in the Chalk It Up Freestyle Zone. Photo by Francisco Cortes.
Two children drawing in the Chalk It Up Freestyle Zone. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

The Texas Tribune reported on Friday, March 18 that “more kids (are) sleeping in state offices amid foster shortage.” The story bears to reveal that the demand for foster care homes will always outweigh the supply. Last year, The Children’s Shelter was unable to place 2,700 children through our foster care program, because we did not have enough licensed foster care families to meet the need for temporary care.

A solution? The Children’s Shelter will launch the #2700 foster care campaign on April 1 through May 31 in an effort to recruit individuals and families interested in becoming a licensed foster care family. The question arises, where do children go when they cannot be placed at Children’s Shelter foster care homes? Children are placed in other foster care homes in the county, or they may be placed out of the county in communities as far as Dallas. In addition to the trauma of removal, these children often experience additional anxiety being placed out of their communities.

There are challenges in being a foster care family, as there is with being a new parent. The Children’s Shelter walks prospective foster care families throughout the entire foster care licensing process and provides mental health intervention training needed to help families be successful in working with children who have experienced trauma as a result of maltreatment. The timeframe to complete licensure is an average of 90 days.

Richard and Yolanda DeJesus have provided temporary care for children through the foster system since 2009. Photo courtesy of the Children's Shelter.
Richard and Yolanda DeJesus have provided temporary care for children through the foster system since 2009. Photo courtesy of the Children’s Shelter.

To provide context, in 2015, Bexar County experienced a trend in child removals by Child Protective Services in that 64% of removals were due to neglect, which ranged from parental substance and/or alcohol addiction. The Children’s Shelter is witnessing placement trends of children in large sibling groups, which can be four to six children at one time at our emergency shelter by CPS and San Antonio Police Department.

Our greatest need for foster care homes, especially those homes who can provide temporary care for sibling groups and/or who are willing to care for older youth, such as children ages 10 and older. Disproportionately, the largest number of children who languish in foster care are older youth, African American children, and children with special needs that include physical and cognitive disabilities.

Foster families, such as the DeJesus family (Richard and Yolanda) are an example of foster care families that have opened their heart and home to children in the temporary managing conservatorship of the State of Texas.

Since 2009, they have provided temporary foster care for more than 60 children in age from infants to teens who have experienced trauma due to prolonged maltreatment. Richard is a former United States Army Recruiter and retired from American Airlines. Yolanda retired from operating a home daycare for 13 years. Having heard about fostering from his sister-the day their pastor made a call for foster parents from their congregation-the DeJesus’ knew it was their time. Blessed with three grandchildren, they wanted to make it their life mission to serve others and pay it forward.

Many people reading this may be saying, “I am just one person. How can I be part of the solution?” If you or your family have considered learning about becoming a licensed foster family, you can visit The Children’s Shelter website or call 210-212-2590 for more information on taking the first steps to become a foster care family. The qualifications include a minimum age of 23 with no maximum age, as we had a foster family retire at the age of 85 nearly two years ago. You and anyone who would be in contact with the foster child(ren) more than twice-a-month must pass a federal background check; you must be a U.S. Citizen; pass a fire and home inspection; and provide proof of income. The Children’s Shelter requires 56 training hours to become a licensed foster family and are accessible all at The Children’s Shelter.

Potential families may have apprehension when first contemplating foster care, but we, at The Children’s Shelter, will walk you through the process and prepare you for your first placement. Foster parents may feel anxious about welcoming a child into their home, but the child is equally if not more anxious about coming into a new environment.

Imagine you are five years old, along with your two younger siblings, who are three and one and are placed in a foster home in the middle of the night, as you were removed from your home because the very people you trusted broke your trust and caused you harm. You don’t know how you and your siblings are going to be received. You are scared, hungry, and tired, and all you want to do is be with your family. If you need a change of perspective, I ask you to take a few minutes and watch ReMoved-it will change how you think about foster care.

Top image: Two children drawing in the Chalk It Up Freestyle Zone. Photo by/courtesy Francisco Cortes.

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Adoption: A Story of Family, Love, and Faith

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Commission on Eliminating Child Abuse: Moving from Response to Prevention

Anais Biera Miracle

Anais Biera Miracle is vice president of external affairs at the San Antonio Children's Shelter.