Agency Turns to Ecclesial Groups to Retain Children in RGV
WESLACO - A state agency is looking for solutions following the closure of the Rio Grande Valley’s only foster care shelter.
The Department of Family Protective Services said there are currently more than 1,000 Valley children under the care of CPS.
Cornelia Garza, faith-based specialist at the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, said it’s an issue which has been on the rise over the past 10 years in the Valley.
“Hidalgo County, unfortunately, has been leading the region in the number of removals. These children are being removed because of abuse and neglect,” she said. “On a monthly basis, there’s an average from 25 to 30 children being removed out of Hidalgo County.”
Garza said the agency usually tries to find a relative so the children can stay with them. She said that doesn’t happen often, so they look for available foster care shelters.
“We have very few shelters in the region… The most recent shelter closed their doors so we don’t presently have, to my knowledge,” she said.
Garza said the shelter closed its doors voluntarily last year. Children in the program now have to be taken to shelters across the state. The closest one is in Corpus Christ, but they only house children that are seven years old and younger.
“We see a lot of infants and toddlers, and we see a lot of sibling groups coming into here. And because we don’t have enough homes, you often see siblings be separated and placed in different homes,” she said.
Garza said they are working on ways to prevent children from leaving the Valley. She said they decided to request help from the ecclesial community.
“We are reaching out to our faith partner or the faith community to possibly if they are interested to help us in opening their doors to children without placement or of the Rio Grande Valley,” she said.
The specialist said the process can take about a year. In the meantime, Garza said they are really pushing for more people to apply to be foster parents.