Finding Homes for Valley Foster Children Staying in CPS Facilities
HARLINGEN – Child Protective Services says the foster program is overburdened, meaning children in an already traumatic situation are, at times, left to sleep on cots and blow up air mattresses, sometimes, in CPS offices.
In the Rio Grande Valley, that problem is being addressed through a unique partnership.
At just six years old, Frankie Garza knows she is helping.
"We helped the people who don’t have toys, who won’t be with their mommies and daddies for Christmas,” said Frankie.
She and her classmates at St. Albans Episcopal brought a tower of toys for the children who use Comfort Cottage. CPS says the home in Harlingen is the first of its kind in South Texas.
“Instead of having to stay in the office, and sleep on a blow-up bed, they’ll be able to come here,” says Barbara Tucker, the organizer of Comfort Cottage.
Wesley United Methodist Church furnished the home they own. It opened this past fall. Tucker says it is serving as an immediate shelter for children taken into CPS’s care.
“It’s a scary time. They’ve just been taken away from, even though it may not be a good situation it’s the only family and home they may know. To be pulled away from that and then have nothing that looks recognizable, that pertains to a little child, I’m sure is devastating. Very scary. So we’re hoping we can ease that a little bit,” explained Tucker.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman issued a mandate and ordered to reduce the number of children sleeping in offices and hotels.
The faith-based coordinator for CPS told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the need for home-like environments isn't limited to our region, but a nationwide dilemma.
As of November, CPS reports there are 1,315 children in foster care in our region alone.
If Comfort Cottage fills up, they will join forces with another facility.
“It’s a pretty good estimate that this facility will be full all the time,” said Manuel Gomez III from Valley Haven.
The facility expects to open in January. Gomez says they are going through licensing to become a shelter for foster children. They will have the room for 36 children at a time.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see a younger sibling separated from an older sibling," said Gomez. "The advantage of having this facility is that if we have the space available they can stay together and come here and play and they’re not missing their family members.”
Together the two homes will provide up to 42 beds.
CPS is looking for more churches and faith-based organizations to start programs such as Comfort Cottage.
If you would like to help, contact the regions CPS Faith-Based Coordinator Cornelia Garza at 361-816-4053.
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