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Texas foster care program fills the void where government fails

Conservative Review

Three out of Cara Griswold’s four children are adopted thanks to some help from her church. Now, Texas lawmakers are hoping that her family’s story could be a model for assisting the state’s troubled Child Protective Services.

After the Griswolds’ church called on them to help five years ago, Cara and her husband decided to become foster parents and adopted three biological sisters: Mari, Isabella, and Adriana, according to Houston’s CBS 11.

“I just remember the 6-year-old at the time, Mari, walked up to me and asked, ‘Are you the mom in this house?’ and I said yes,” Cara recalled. “She said ‘I’m going to call you mom.’ And she’s been calling me mom ever since.”

Now, thanks to a recent initiative to further incorporate faith-based organizations into the foster system, the nearly 30,000 children under the Lone Star State’s care have better hope to eventually find a home.

Texas’ foster care system has been plagued by overworked social workers and high attrition rates for first-year foster parents (around 50 percent, according to one research estimate), leaving a lot of the state’s most vulnerable children to intermittently sleep in government buildings for multiple nights.

"Our hearts just broke … I mean the number of kids who are just right here in our neighborhood," Cara Griswold recalled.

Despite a $38 million influx of tax dollars and a mandate to correct a slate of problems, including lagging investigations and child abuse-related deaths, the state CPS was still woefully underperforming, documents show.  As of right now, there are currently around 30,000 children and teens under CPS care in Texas.

This is where Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is hoping faith communities can pick up some of the slack. Patrick has spearheaded a collaborative effort of faith-based organizations and CPS to support the beleaguered welfare system.

On Wednesday, he invited hundreds of church and lawmakers to the Texas Faith Leaders Summit in Austin to recruit their help. He opened with prayer, “asking God to help the government and the church support foster parents and ‘children who desperately need a family,’” according to the Texas Observer.

The initiative will seek to employ the faith community’s “long history of involvement in the child welfare system” by better integrating preexisting programs to “recruit foster and adoptive parents, provide enrichment activities for children, including tutoring, after-school programs” and various forms of counseling into the troubled system, reads a statement on Patrick’s website.

“My goal is to promote this faith-based initiative and motivate more families across Texas to open their homes and their hearts to a child in need,” he concludes. The lieutenant governor states that at least 580 churches have enrolled in the program.

"The state is the legal parent of the children, but every child comes from a Texas community. And those communities and those churches need to step up and help take care of those kids," Department of Family and Protective Services’ Patrick Crimmins said at the summit, reports Max Gorden and TWC News.

News of the partnership first broke during the spring, when Patrick’s office announced in May that it had been meeting with religious leaders to identify ways in which the faith-based community can help children who are at risk for the foster care system.

“[Dan] Patrick’s approach to equipping and encouraging faith-based communities to consider foster parenting and adoption is sensible and practical,” Arina Grossu, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, told Conservative Review via email.

“It does not employ the expansion of an already-overburdened state welfare system. Instead, it invites Christians to share their hearts and homes with children. With his efforts alone, at least 580 churches have enrolled in the program.  Other states should follow his lead.”

In fact, if they did, it could make a tremendous difference for kids in need on a national scale. America’s churches have enormous potential for good in the foster care system.

Grossu explains that if each church could find just one or two Griswold families of their own, every eligible child in the system nationwide could find a home.

“The inconvenient truth is that there are currently over 415,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, of whom about 108,000 are waiting for forever homes,” Grossu added. “With roughly 350,000 congregations in the U.S, if about 1.2 families in each congregation would take in one child, there would be no more children in the U.S. foster care system.”

Despite this statistic, roughly 26,000 kids age out of the foster system every year, according to A Child’s Hope Int’l.

“Christians throughout history have always stepped forward to protect vulnerable populations such as children,” says Grossu., “And Christians today must answer the same call.”

“The state should work with faith groups to develop new ideas and support that can be streamlined to improve the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent,” said state Senator Charles Schwertner at the Texas Faith Leaders Summit on Wednesday. “I think I speak for the entire legislature when I say we’re committed to doing everything in our power to repair those troubling gaps in our CPS and foster care system … But we can’t do it alone.”

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