Child placing agency case managers are in this unusual position where they work hard to be supportive of children and families, but don’t have much decision-making power in a Child Protective Services case. These dynamics mean case managers are greatly impacted by deficits in the system, but have minimal ability to influence changes in a positive direction.
When our phone rings with a request for placement, we feel the pressure to find a bed for that child. We have to balance that need with the best interest of the families and children we serve. Judgment calls have to be made on short notice and with high stakes.
Currently, in addition to the standard stress of finding placement for children, we know that if we are unable to place a child into a Buckner home, the child might sleep on a cot or floor at the CPS office. This is an excruciating, heart-wrenching reality.
When a child comes into one of our homes, he or she may have already spent time in the CPS office or with workers who are stretched to give them the time and attention they need. They have suffered the loss and trauma of leaving the home and caregiver they were with and the impact of that trauma is enhanced when they have to sleep in a CPS office without knowing what the next night will hold.
By the time a child is placed in a foster home, what could have been manageable stress has grown exponentially. Every person in the new household is impacted by this, and our case managers are doing everything they can to walk alongside the children and caregivers to get through the situation.
The current crisis, caused by a lack of homes for children, means the time and energy which could be spent focusing on healing the abuse and neglect the child has experienced prior to coming into care is now being spent addressing the additional trauma of uncertainty and fear.
With all the media attention on the crisis, I’ve seen glimmers of hope. Each time a news story is published and this is brought into the public eye, more people are informed about the issues these children and professionals are facing.
The child welfare system is imperfect. It is a system which only exists because of the awful reality that children experience abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers. There is no way to perfect a system that is dependent on such pain.
The general public seems to recognize the flaws in the system but feels helpless to address them. It’s easy to dismiss the issue as “someone else’s problem” because you don’t see the effect on your own family. The truth is a rising tide lifts all boats.
In 2015 in Texas, there were 66,721 confirmed child victims of abuse and neglect – but those are only the confirmed instances. Every one of those children has two biological parents. Many of them have siblings, friends, grandparents, cousins and teachers. Many of them will grow up to be parents themselves. The number of people impacted by this is countless, and somewhere along the way, every family in the state of Texas is affected.
If as a culture and community we do not effectively and adequately address the impact of their abuse and neglect now, there are endless repercussions for generations to come.
Marcia Seebachan is the Buckner manager of global permanency services in Dallas.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Texas foster care system has been in headlines all over the state. There has been a shortage of foster families and an increase in the number of children removed, which means children are having to spend the night in CPS offices on makeshift beds while they wait for a safe place to go. Buckner is a leading foster care and adoption agency in Texas and as Christians, we feel compelled to respond by bringing awareness to the issues, dispelling stigmas and giving tangible ways for you to help a hurting child who needs a warm bed and loving family. See full coverage of the crisis here.