Challenges at every turn

An acquaintance described life with his four-year-old foster child:

“Early on, she would throw violent fits every single week. They would last an hour. She would roll on the floor and literally foam at the mouth. If we were at a party, our other kids knew we’d have to take her home.”

It makes sense, the anger that abused and neglected children experience both consciously and un. They have endured sordid mixes of depravity complete with drugs, violence, chaos and need.

The foster dad continued, “We’re almost a year in. Things are better. The rages only come around every once in a while.”

Stories of progress and redemption do happen, such as the decorated military officer who recently addressed supporters of Meadowland, a residential treatment facility in Boerne. He had been in foster care there two decades ago.

But such stories are few and far between. The foster care system in Texas faces challenges at every turn. Getting a child out of abuse and neglect is often just the start of a painful and damaging process.

With both the average Child Protective Services caseworker and the average foster family lasting about 2 years, the cards are stacked.

“Some foster/adopt agencies don’t screen or support their families well,” said Jennifer Smith, Vice President of 4 Kids of South Texas, a San Antonio foster/adopt agency.

“They just take the money from the state and rarely follow up. Some foster families seem to be in it for the money, too.”

“We recruit, verify, train and equip our families. We make sure they have adequate support and sufficient respite care for when they need a break. Most of the kids placed in our homes don’t move around.”

In contrast, most children in the foster care system move several times among single family homes, group homes, shelters and treatment facilities.

Exacerbating the problem, the state often fails to meet its requirement to place each child in a permanent situation within twelve months in the system.

“They’ve found loopholes,” Smith added. “They put a child in what is called a ‘permanent managing conservatorship,’ but they don’t terminate the parental rights of people who show no effort to change. Meanwhile, the child remains in limbo.”

Even those who mean well can’t win for losing. Late last year, a federal judge ruled Texas’ foster care system unconstitutionally lacking. The court cited child-on-child abuse in group homes. It subsequently capped the total number of children in any foster home at 6.

But since the cap number includes a family’s biological and adopted children, the supply of foster slots has diminished. Hence, the stories you hear of foster kids sleeping in CPS offices.

Close to home, Boerne’s Heartland Children’s Home cares for foster children with acute medical needs. Though it can serve many more, the center is limited to six children currently.

Last month, the federal judge appointed two “special masters” to review and improve the system. Things certainly can’t get worse. Nine-hundred kids in metro San Antonio await “forever families.”

Of the males who “age out” at 18, 30% will be incarcerated by age 19. Females are twice as likely to become pregnant by age 20. Many will wander the streets: 30% of Texas’ homeless population was once in foster care.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at


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