LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As the state of Texas prepares to reopen, there is one industry in particular that is preparing for an increase in the number of people it will serve: the foster care industry.
With the Lubbock-Amarillo region consistently ranking as one of the highest in cases of abuse and neglect in the state, a local foster care agency is preparing for that increase.
Texas Family Initiative is a private agency located here in Lubbock, with additional offices in other regions across the state. The Senior Administrator over Texas says right now a major focus as they get back up and running in a more normal capacity, is processing foster families within their system who can take in children. She says the challenges they have faced during these last few weeks presented hurdles she never could have imagined, “With our existing families, we’re required to see them, you know, at least one time a month and we’ve had to find a way to build a better mouse trap with that because the shelter in place restrictions meant we couldn’t go into foster homes. We weren’t going into foster homes, CPS wasn’t going into foster homes, none of the agencies were permitted for well over 30 days to go at all,” said Angela Nowell.
A reality that made it difficult for foster parents like Steve Mathis, who is preparing to adopt his third foster child; a process that until now, was placed on hold, “You know, he wasn’t allowed. Courts shut down and so everything was put on hold, including his adoption,” said Mathis.
Nowell says Texas Family Initiative had to get creative in order to figure out ways to get the state’s approval to visit their kids, “So, we had to go with our hats in our hands and say ‘please, will you give us what’s called a variance, will you give us a variance of these rules and allow us to do these visits virtually?'," added Nowell.
She says that as the state begins to reopen, they are preparing to once again conduct in-home visits in certain situations, with virtual visitations continuing in others, “What it means for us is that we are finally allowed to get out and do the work, not that we’re required to do, but that we love to do.”
However, in addition to processing more foster families to place children with, TFI has another area they will focus heavily on.
“We anticipate the need for foster homes to go up as children who have been at home without, we always call them the watchers. You know, the people you interact with who might be the ones who not just report abuse neglect, but might be the ones those families ask for help from. They’re not interacting with the watchers. Now they’re going to be exposed to them again, which is why you’re going to see referrals go up for abuse, neglect and you’re going to see more children come into care,” added Nowell.
Which is why both she and Mathis are encouraging residents in the Lubbock area to consider stepping up as a solution to a pervasive problem.
“The thing that’s alarming about it is over half the Lubbock County children in foster care, are placed outside of Lubbock County, cause there aren’t enough foster homes here,” said Nowell.
“For those who have that feeling that foster parenting might be for them, go check it out. Go to a meeting, just get some more information. You might determine it’s not for you, but you might find out it’s just what your life needs and someone else’s life,” added Mathis.
Texas Family Initiative is hosting virtual meetings for those who are interested in learning more.