Many were shocked when Leah Aguirre's caretaker, Matilda Almaraz was charged with her murder.
Since Almaraz went through Child Protective Services training and fostered children herself, KCBD decided to take a look into the CPS system to see if the training is enough for someone to take on the responsibility of caring for a child.
Before she was charged with Leah's murder, the child's mother, Tina Aguirre, 22 said she did not believe Almaraz would harm her daughter.
Two days after the Amber Alert was issued, Crosbyton Police said Leah's body was intentionally hidden, wrapped in plastic and found in a box. After police questioned Almaraz, she was arrested and charged with capital murder.
"When our children come in for care, it's always because of situations that have to do with abuse and neglect," said Faith-Based CPS Recruiter, Amber Fischer. "So they're usually put into a foster home where they stay, as the courts work it out."
According to CPS, more than 255,000 children are reportedly abused and neglected each year and currently 17,000 children are in foster homes in the state of Texas.
In order to become a licensed foster parent, CPS requires parents to attend an informational meeting, educating potential parents about the required criteria. The next step is to fill out a parenting application; at this time authorities run a background check on everyone in the home.
Parents must then go through "Pride Training," which consists of 30 hours through a 5-week training course. It is through this training that parents become familiar with common situations they will face as foster parents. A CPS worker then visits the residence and interviews all residents in the home. Additionally, CPR, First Aid and trauma training are required. Potential foster parents also enlist in Star training, which informs them about the specifics of the health care their foster children will need.
KCBD asked CPS officials if they saw any flaws in the system and if there was anything that could have been prevented in the case of baby Leah.
"I don't know much about what happened there and I probably can't comment since it's regarding a specific case, said Fischer. "You know, we try our best to make sure children are safe that's our number one job with CPS, to make sure children are safe."
Connie Scarborough grew up as a foster child and decided to continue the fostering tradition. She has cared for more than 100 foster children and is in the process of adopting her 10th foster child. Since she has experienced the system firsthand from two different perspectives, we asked her if she thought some people became foster parents for the wrong reasons.
"Without a doubt, I think in every system that probably happens, probably in foster care, too," said Scarborough.
"What's really important is these people are interested in helping the children and not in some motivation for themselves, such as financial motivations," said Fischer.
There are no real specific characteristics of what criteria a foster parent must possess but according to Fischer, someone with their heart in the right place is a great place to start.
"The ideal foster parent would be in a family that is patient, loving and stable as well as having the motivation in the right place, to help take care of the children and not for any other type of reason."
If you'd like more information about becoming a foster parent, you can log on to http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adoption_and_Foster_Care/Foster_Care/default.asp.
You can also contact Amber Fischer at (806) 762-2680.
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