AUSTIN (KXAN) — Funding for Texas’ foster care system is in gridlock as Democratic lawmakers continue to break quorum in Washington, D.C. in an effort to stall Republican-backed voting legislation.
While it’s unclear when roughly $91 million for foster care efforts might be brought before legislators, foster care groups in Texas are still in desperate need of help. Here’s a list of ways you can do just that.
Donate school supplies
As students head into the school year, Foster Angels of Central Texas, a group that focuses on making sure foster kids’ basic needs are met, is hoping to collect more than 1,000 backpacks, filled with supplies, by the end of this month.
They were about halfway to their goal as of this weekend.
“We want to make sure that these kids have everything they possibly need heading into school so on the first day they’re ready,” said Maggie Sheppard, senior marketing manager for Foster Angels of Central Texas. “They’re not going to school and realizing ‘Here’s another thing I don’t have. This is another thing that makes me different.’”
Sheppard says they’re most in need of backpacks for older students. They also are looking for school supplies like highlighters, notebooks, and 3-ring binders.
Foster Angels of Central Texas has a blue bin located outside of their office located at 101 Westlake Drive, Suite 210 in West Lake Hills. While they’re accepting drop off donations, you can also donate online or donate using the organization’s Amazon wish list.
They’re not the only foster-based group looking for help collecting school supplies right now.
Partnerships for Children, another Austin based group, is also hosting a back-to-school supplies fundraiser heading into the school year. You can find their Amazon wish list here or you can sponsor a child.
Become a mentor
Looking to volunteer your time instead of your money? Many local advocacy groups are regularly recruiting mentors. According to Partnerships for Children, an Austin group:
- 30% of males formerly in CPS care will be incarcerated by age 19
- 70% of female foster youth will give birth at least once before age 21
- 1 out of 5 youth who age out of the foster care system will end up homeless
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services provided KXAN with a list of statewide mentorship programs — you can filter by location.
Sponsor an activity
Frank Lopez, the director for foster care and adoption at Upbring says especially because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, foster parents and kids are needing outlets right now. You can help give them that.
Sponsor an art class, a cooking class, a yoga session — or if you have a service or program you want to give a family, groups like Upbring will help you make the connection, Lopez says.
“Reach out to your local foster care agencies, reach out to our local office and say ‘How can I help?'” Lopez said. “Whatever you might feel that you can help with is greatly going to be appreciated.”
Donate to DFPS’ Rainbow Rooms
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offers caseworkers 24/7 access to necessary foster materials through its Rainbow Rooms. Only new items can be donated, you can find ways to donate here. DFPS says the most needed items right now are:
- Car seats
- School supplies
- Personal hygiene items
- Toys and children’s books
- New children’s clothing
- Household cleaning supplies
- Pack ‘n’ Play Portable Play Yards
Sally Fussell, with the SAFE Alliance, beamed Wednesday about how selfless foster families and volunteers with her organization, and within the foster care system, are. She provided additional ways people in our community can help.
Babysitting: help foster families balance work and life. All babysitters must be trained in CPR and first-aid, among other requirements.
Gift cards: give families and foster children the option to go get what they need, with the additional freedom to pick out exactly what the kid(s) wants.
Meal deliveries: help a busy foster family provide an easy and quick meal for the kid(s) in their care.
Transportation: Fussell says this is a big need. Help get foster families to and from important events.
Like all of the organizations we talked to, there are a number of options and options. “You don’t have to foster in order to help,” Fussell said.
To check in on volunteer opportunities, visit this website.
Foster parents desperately needed
While programs surrounding foster care are great ways to get involved and make a positive impact on a child in foster care, the greatest need Texas has right now is for families who are ready to foster or adopt.
“The need for foster adoptive parents around the state is always there. The number of kids coming into our care each year, each month even, just ebbs and flows pretty substantially,” Mark Wilson, media relations specialist for DFPS, said. “These are great kids who deserve every comfort in life.”
DFPS is still doing informational meetings virtually because of the pandemic. But Wilson says that’s actually helped them have more meetings.
These virtual meetings are the first step in the process and carries no obligation. You can find dates and times for those meetings, and more information on how to get involved, on the DFPS website.
Where lawmakers are with funding
During the regular session, lawmakers passed a bill into law that prevents children from sleeping in unregulated spaces. KXAN has previously reported that hundreds of kids were sleeping in Child Protective Services office spaces. According to the Texas House Republican Caucus, more than 400 kids slept in unlicensed facilities in the month of June.
While that bill passed the regular session, advocates told us that lawmakers jumped the gun, and didn’t provide solutions. A bill aimed at freeing up roughly $91 million to fund those solutions made its way to Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda earlier this month.
“DFPS should not be parents. Kids should not be growing up in foster care,” Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jamie Masters told lawmakers Tuesday. “That is not what foster care was created for.”
Foster care providers say they have a 40% staffing turnover, citing increased scrutiny and difficult working conditions. With the additional state funding, they say, they’ll be able to improve employee retention and decrease demand on current staff.