Hundreds of displaced children are in a holding pattern due to a shortage of foster care and capacity issues at children's homes.
Under Texas SB 1896, foster children and youth without placements can no longer sleep at Child Protective Services (CPS) offices. That was never an ideal option, but it was an option that helped temporarily.
No longer having that, along with factors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, children's homes around the Houston area continue to scramble to come up with a solution.
When ABC13 stopped by Trel's Home For Children, it was all smiles from the volunteers.
Remember my post about Trel’s Home For Children in Conroe? Did a story on them today and the extreme shortage of foster care space in Texas. Tune in to @abc13houston at 4 and 6:30 p.m. https://t.co/LZ1ZufebJi— Erica Simon (@EricaOnABC13) June 17, 2021
The children have been through a lot, and as of now, have nowhere else to go.
"The girls that we're working with come to us from all over with different various issues and situations that we're trying to love on them and provide for them," founder Ken Collier explained.
Collier and his wife opened this emergency shelter in Conroe last year in honor of their twin son who died.
"We wanted to do something in his honor after seeing all the kids that were displaced in the hospital - with parents not coming back or not able to fit parents," he said.
The shelter partners with CPS, the Department of Family and Protective Services and other organizations to take in as many kids as they can, but they're at capacity.
Most shelters and foster homes in the Houston metro area are facing the same issue.
"There was one day we got like 30 calls - 30 intakes ... 'Hey, do you have room for children? Do you have room maybe next week? Tomorrow?'" Collier recalled.
DFPS said it recognizes the problem and issued the following statement:
"With SB 1986 now in effect, we understand that foster children and youth without placements can no longer sleep at CPS offices and we will comply with the new mandate. Intensive efforts to identify additional space have been underway for weeks, and in the short term we have identified new placement options to help supplement motels and other alternate locations already being used. Long-term, we must do more than relocate foster children from one temporary space to another. It is imperative that the State of Texas and its partners continue efforts to address our foster care system's persistent lack of appropriate capacity for the children and young people in the State's care.
Between FY20 and FY21 the system lost about 1000 beds statewide. COVID has certainly contributed to providers having difficulty training and retaining both staff and placements. Many of the youth we are trying to find placements for have intensive behavioral needs. In May 2021 statewide there were 310 youth without a placement. 71 of those children were from the Greater Houston area."
COVID-19 has contributed to the shortage. Collier said a number of foster families have backed out because they were reluctant to let someone new, outside of their bubble, into their home.
Collier and his wife are looking to identify and open a second facility.
In the meantime, they're keeping the faith and hoping lawmakers will intervene.
"[We're] trying to find creative ways that we can bond together and help each other out - and hopefully get some progress here in the state of Texas," said Collier.
If you'd like to help Trel's Home with some of its short-term needs, here's how you can pitch in.
- You can donate clothes for girls ages 5-17
- Become a part of the "Meal Train" where you can provide lunch for the girls for however long you wish to volunteer.
- Sponsor an outing, like a trip to a bowling alley or a water park
For more information, visit Trel's Home For Children's website.
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