Emergency Shelter Opens in RGV for Children Removed from Homes
HARLINGEN – For the first time in the Rio Grande Valley an emergency shelter is available for children who are removed from their homes by Child Protective Services.
There are currently 537 children from the Valley in CPS care. Some of the children are forced to move out of the area.
It’s because available foster homes are unable to make room for them. There is also no emergency shelter available in the area.
Children can be removed from their homes at any time. They often have to sleep inside a CPS office, hotel or must be driven more than a hundred miles away to an emergency shelter.
“Currently the closest shelters are in Corpus and Laredo,” Pamela Alvarez, co-founder and vice president of non-profit Valley Haven said.
She said Valley Haven will change that.
“Valley Haven is a 32-bed facility. We will house kids from 0 to 17 years old,” Alvarez said.
It’s the first emergency shelter to open its doors in the Valley. The lack of emergency shelters in the Valley faces barriers like licensing and funding for operations.
The shelter has been in the works since 2015.
CPS spokesperson John Lennan said the shelter will provide the much needed help for the Valley.
“We want to be able to try and keep the children in an area that they are familiar with and that keeps them connected with their family members, that keeps them connected with their schools, if that’s possible,” he said.
The 8-room housing doesn’t take on the look of a shelter. Alvarez said the design serves a purpose.
“We definitely did not want this to be institutionalized one bit. We wanted this to feel as homey. We wanted this transition to be as normal as possible for the child,” she said.
Each staff member at Valley Haven will be trained to help at risk youth.
“And so hopefully we can stop this cycle of abuse, so they don’t do to their kids one day what’s been done to them,” Alvarez said.
Counselors will also be available.
Children who will spend time at Valley Haven will stay there anywhere from 30 to 45 days. Their license is set to take effect in 30 to 60 days.
The number of children in state custody is just 187 shy of surpassing numbers from 2016.
So far in the first seven months of fiscal year 2017:
- 216 children have been removed in Cameron County.
- 292 children were removed in Hidalgo County
- 20 children from Starr County
- Nine children in Willacy County.
If an organization is interested in learning more about becoming provider they can view our licensing division web page at: http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Care/Residential_Child_Care_Licensing/become_residential_provider.asp
If you would like to volunteer or donate to Valley Haven visit valleyhaveninc.org
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