SAN ANTONIO – Child Protective Services and law enforcement agencies often contact the San Antonio Children’s Shelter asking about foster care placements for children ranging from infants to teenagers who have been taken in abuse and neglect cases.
Anais Miracle, the shelter’s spokeswoman, said they were unable to meet 4,187 requests from July 2016 to April 2017. Of those requests, 1,105 were emergency removals.
Yet in 2015, the requests numbered 2,700, which is 1,487 fewer than so far this year.
But as it is now, the agency’s emergency shelter is nearly full.
“Right now, we have 62 children and our capacity is 66,” Miracle said.
Miracle said if no local foster homes are available, other licensed child placement agencies, as well as family members, are contacted and, if needed, the already traumatized children are sent out of Bexar County.
“We should not have to send them to Travis County, to Harris County, to Dallas County, even as far as Amarillo,” Miracle said.
She said if necessary, they stay overnight in CPS offices, as 56 children have done since last year and up to last March, 61 have stayed in offices more than one night, according to CPS data.
Miracle said Gov. Greg Abbott has asked faith-based groups to help, and there are also two bills — Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 6 — pending in the Texas Legislature regarding community-based care for foster children.
She said, often, foster parents are called on to handle more difficult cases -- children who are medically fragile or have special needs and children with behavioral problems. Miracle said many are last-minute placements in which foster parents are given little notice or information, other than that the children need temporary shelter.
But, Miracle said, they don’t just give the children to foster parents without the necessary training and preparation for a variety of situations.
She said for instance, “Foster parents need to have appropriate mental health training to ensure they can provide a safe and therapeutic environment.”
Miracle said children in need of foster care have been removed from homes where there is chronic abuse and neglect, so she said adequate training is vital “to provide the level of care a child needs to overcome their trauma.”
She said the San Antonio Children’s Shelter offers foster parents a network of support -- “psychiatrists, psychologists, a therapist, pediatrician, the school.”
Elizabeth Bryand said she and her husband often have relied on that network of support while fostering 500 children over the past 21 years.
They adopted their foster child, a preemie weighing under 2 pounds who had fetal alcohol syndrome.
Bryand said Elissa is now 21 and ,along with her grown children, helps with caring for the foster children.
“She’s doing very well,” Bryand said. “We nurtured her, cared for her, loved her and now we’re mom and dad to her.”
She said after Elissa came into their lives, they continued to take in other foster children as their personal ministry.
Although Bryand said at first she dreaded the thought of giving up a foster child, she and her husband have learned to put them in God’s hands.
She said, “Not that we don’t love them. We just teach them, and we help them and we know we have to make space for another one.”
The Children’s Shelter holds informational sessions for potential foster parents the first and second Tuesday of every month.
Miracle said anyone interested in learning more about foster care can also call 210-212-2590.
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