Former children's home resident now serves children as activities director
Growing up, Rogelio Salazar understood struggle. His family was impoverished, and his mother was stretched to her limits as she tried to care for eight children. At one point, she attempted suicide and ended up in the hospital.
Knowing the harsh realities of life has helped Salazar appreciate the compassion of the Buckner Rio Grande Children’s Home that much more.
[caption id="attachment_10761" align="alignright" width="300"] Rogelio and one of his brothers are pictured in teal shirts in the front row with their foster group home family. Rogelio is on the left.[/caption]
Salazar and five of his siblings came to the children’s home when he was 6 years old after a social worker reached out to their mother in 1991. From that point, they visited their mother in the summer and winter but primarily lived in two homes on the campus, where they discovered a stable family life.
“We knew the good and bad. We knew the poverty, the lack of parenting skills and the low economic status,” Salazar said. “Then we’d come back to the children’s home where we’d experience the love and support.”
For the next seven years, Salazar thrived in a caring environment. His self-esteem grew, and he matured. He learned what it meant to have a home. At 13, he returned to live with his mother for a short time.
“I was only discharged five months,” he said. “Then I was begging my mom and [Caseworker] Ana Maria to take me back.” Salazar returned to the campus and remained there until he turned 16.
2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Rio Grande Children’s Home, which has cared for hundreds of children like Salazar. Born out of the heart of Pastor Buddy Owens, the ministry began as on-campus housing for vulnerable children. It expanded throughout the years and became part of the Buckner family in 1998.
“There’s hope,” Salazar said. “The children’s home brings hope. It brings hope to kids. It helps them strive for bigger and better things.”
In addition to its on-campus ministry, the children’s home has continued to grow as it shifted its focus to community-based foster care homes – a future Salazar is proud to be part of. Each day, the children’s home receives requests to care for 10-20 children. A move toward foster homes throughout the Rio Grande Valley makes caring for more children possible while keeping siblings together.
“When we looked at the number of children we could care for, we were limited to 36 kids on campus,” said Monica Salinas, executive director of Buckner Children and Family Services in the Rio Grande Valley. “Now with the transition, the sky is the limit. We can care for as many children as we have homes, and it feels more like family for the children.”
Residents in the Rio Grande Valley are excited by the prospect of caring for vulnerable children in their homes. Training to be a foster care parent is extensive and people are lining up for it.
“The majority of the homes we’re opening are in Cameron County,” Salinas said. “You’d think we’d get people closer to the campus, but interest is coming from people at least 50 miles away. The word is out. We have people on a waiting list.”
After graduating college, Salazar became a group foster care parent at the children’s home. Now he carries on the institution’s half-century legacy of caring as activities director. Recently, he helped recruit foster care families near Harlingen.
“I’ve had so many different types of people take care of me and I’ve taken care of so many different kinds of people,” he said. “It’s a refuge for a child. Once a child comes in the gate and ends up in one of these homes – in the community or here on campus – there’s going to be someone who cares for a child and wants what’s best for that child.”
John Hall is the associate director of public relations for Buckner International. He can be reached at jhall[at]buckner[dot]org.
To learn more about ways you can be a family to a child through foster care or adoption with Buckner, please visit www.beafamily.org.