AUSTIN (KXAN) - When Courtney Jones looks at photos of herself when she was a young child, she often wonders what she was thinking at that age.
"I see innocence," said former Texas foster child Courtney Jones.
The photos show a time before she understood her mother was doing drugs, her father was not around and she would soon become a Texas foster child.
"I entered the foster care system when I was 8 years old," said Jones. "I was sexually abused by my step grandfather. I was in the foster care system for ten years. I probably went through 20 to 30 different placements -- 16 foster homes, shelters, group homes."
Not many of those homes felt like a real home to Courtney. She says her case workers would not always listen to her complaints.
"I'm upstairs with the other foster kids eating for Thanksgiving, but you're downstairs with your family eating," said Jones.
At times she felt like a dollar sign, knowing her foster parents were being paid to keep her. they were paid more if she was a problem child.
"The higher the level, the more money they get paid," said Jones.
When she was 11 years old, she was almost adopted by a foster family only to be abused again, so she went back into the system feeling like she had no where to turn.
"It I felt like nobody wanted me. I felt like I couldn't be loved," said Jones.
Thankfully one case worker stood by her helping her get through high school and eventually into college. With a degree in social work, Courtney now works in the very system she wanted out of for so many years. She helps other foster youth through the T exas Department of Family and Protective Services to make sure their voices are heard.
"I believe this is a calling," said Jones. "I believe that God has called me to do something and make change, and I think that's what pushed me through everyday."
Courtney has big plans for her future, the future of Texas foster care and the young people in the system. She is working on her graduate degree in social work and hopes to one day start a nonprofit helping young people in the foster care system.
A change coming to the Texas foster care system
Courtney was part of a state panel that recommended changes to the Texas foster care system. The effort began in January 2010. The twenty-five member panel was made up of judges, foster care providers child advocates and former foster children like Jones. In December 2010, the panel finalized their recommendations, and the Texas Legislature approved them in 2011.
The recommended changes focus on keeping children near other siblings, getting children the services they need in their own communities, and giving private providers more incentive to help children make progress. One lead private provider would oversee the subcontractors across the state
The Department of Family and Protective Services is currently reviewing the proposals from the private providers. The changes should start to happen sometime in the first part of 2012 in two areas of the state, although it is not known what two areas will be chosen to take part in the redesign first.
The need for foster parents
There are more than 6,000 foster kids who are waiting to be adopted in Texas. In Travis County 138 foster children are waiting for their so-called "forever families."
There is a great need for foster parents all across the state. The Department of Family and Protective Services offers many informational meetings several times a year. Foster parents must undergo training, background checks, and a home study before being accepted. It is a lengthy and at times invasive procedure.
Go to www.adoptchildren.org to find out more about becoming a foster parent in Texas.
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Sub-freezing temperatures will continue across much of Central Texas all day Saturday. A second disturbance associated with the winter storm that slammed Texas Thursday and Friday could lead to more freezing precipitation Saturday and …