News outlets across Texas brandished March 2021 headlines about the foster care crisis. At the time, it was reported 186 kids across the state were sleeping in offices of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services because there were not enough foster care placements available.
Buckner helps ensure foster children don't sleep in CPS offices
On April 21, Buckner Children and Family Services and DFPS signed a memorandum of understanding for Buckner to provide available homes for the state’s use in housing the overflow of children in the system.
Buckner operates campus foster cottages and apartments across the state where foster families can live in large, affordable homes, while providing a consistent home environment for children who are in the state's custody.
Available Buckner campus homes in Dallas, Beaumont, Lubbock, Midland, and Mission in the Rio Grande Valley will be used by DFPS.
Homes are furnished and ready immediately for state's use
Buckner staff outfitted each home with furniture, beds, linens, and other home essentials. The homes are furnished and immediately ready for the state’s use, while additional needs for the children and DFPS staff will be met by Buckner on an ongoing basis.
Each Buckner home will accommodate up to four children and at least two DFPS employees responsible for their supervision. A total of 32 children will be able to stay in Buckner homes at any given time as the state works to place the children within a foster home or reunite them with their biological family.
Buckner staff prepare homes available for the state's use in housing the overflow of children in the foster care system.
Need for foster families willing to care for teenagers
“We expect most of the children will be between 14 and 17 years old, which is in line with the trend of needing more foster families willing to care for teenagers,” said Samela Macon, vice president of Buckner Children and Family Services.
“The amount of time each child will stay at one of our homes is different in each situation," she said. "It could be only a few days, or it could be longer. The MOU does not have an end date, and Buckner will support DFPS as long as possible. State case workers are doing their best, but they need help from all of us to succeed.”
Statewide foster care crisis is prompting immediate action
State legislators are currently working on several bills offering potential solutions for the statewide foster care crisis. These include plans to increase foster care privatization, increase placement capacity, reallocate funding, and expand the use of community-based care models.
Katie Olse, the CEO for the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, offered frontline advice to legislators in a recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle. Her solutions include investing in family preservation programs, like Buckner Family Hope Centers, another program offered by Buckner with the mission of strengthening families and reducing the number of children in the system.
Texas children need foster families to care for them while they are in care
Buckner is also a licensed foster care and adoption placement agency, and as such, it will continue to work with Texans interested in becoming licensed foster families, including licenses for therapeutic, respite, and kinship foster care.
“Our collaboration with the state shows a much greater need for foster families who are willing to love and care for older children, as well as children with special needs and sibling groups,” said Macon. “And even if you aren’t able to become a foster family, you can still help these children through financial contributions during this process and beyond.”