SAN ANTONIO – Family Tapestry, a division of The Children's Shelter, has taken over the reins from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to find foster placements and adoptive homes for children in Bexar County.
The change took effect Friday.
"We are now the lead agent in our area to lead a transformation for the foster care system in Bexar County," said Annette Rodriguez, president and CEO of The Children's Shelter .
Creating what's called community-based care comes at the direction of state lawmakers who approved the change in an effort to find solutions for the state's foster care system that has long been criticized as broken.
Through a contract with the state, Family Tapestry hopes to utilize local partners who already work with The Children's Shelter to find more suitable, sustainable foster placements and, ultimately, permanent homes for children.
The idea is to localize the communitywide issue of abuse and neglect with the goal of keeping kids from Bexar County in Bexar County.
Sometimes, foster children from Bexar County land in a faraway foster placement in Amarillo, or El Paso, for example.
"What happens when you have to manage over 300 contracts and 300 providers over the course of an entire state or an entire region of a state it all becomes very cookie-cutter," Rodriguez said. "There's not a lot of room for innovation. There's not a lot of room to be creative and/or be specific to the children and the community you're serving."
The Region 20 Division of Child Protective Services, which operates under the umbrella of DFPS, will continue to be the agency that removes children from homes because of abuse and neglect.
CPS will also continue to be in charge of the fostering and adoption of children who are removed from homes in Region 20 outside of Bexar County.
Once a child from Bexar County has entered the foster system, Family Tapestry will be in charge of where they go.
"We're using sophisticated technology, where we're going to be able to take what the child's presenting issues are, and we're going to enter those into a system," Rodriguez said. "In addition to that, we're going to have the preferences of all of the foster families in Bexar County, all of the facilities in Bexar County. They'll be able to be matched with the most appropriate placement in Bexar County."
"When I look at the foster care system and I've said this for a long time -- the foster care system and the children in foster care are not the sole responsibility of CPS," said CPS Regional Director Erica Banuelos.
Banuelos is hopeful about the change, which will take place in stages, and is confident it will give CPS caseworkers the extra help they've long needed.
Many of those resources will be accessed at the Family Tapestry Placement Center, a place where state workers can bring children who have been removed from homes, day or night.
Critics have used instances of foster children with nowhere else to go, sleeping in CPS offices, as an example of the deficiencies of the foster system.
"No longer will children have to stay in an office, nor will a DFPS worker have to go back to the DFPS office to enter (the child) into the system," Rodriguez said. "They can come straight to our placement center that will be very child-friendly. It will be trauma-informed. We'll have trained staff there. So, if a child needs a bath, they can receive a bath. We will have a cafeteria, so if they need to eat. We'll have toys. It's like a child care center."
Children will also get health assessments immediately.
"That also allows the caseworker to start on all the paperwork that we have to do when we remove a child, so we can concentrate on this part and Tapestry can concentrate on that part," Banuelos said.
DFPS will maintain oversight of the new community-based model of care, which will be the third such program statewide.
Fort Worth and Abilene have similar programs.
Two thousand children currently in the foster care system within CPS in Bexar County will be transferred into the Family Tapestry program through June.
As early as January 2020, Family Tapestry could have its own caseworkers, removing CPS from the case management role for Bexar County children.
Anyone interested in fostering or adoption will now have to work with an agency that has a contract with Family Tapestry. Click here for a list of those agencies.
Rodriguez said each agency on the list has been vetted by DFPS and Family Tapestry.
Anyone who has already contacted CPS about fostering or adopting children will also need to begin working with an approved agency.
Rodriguez said donations and state funding have made the Family Tapestry program possible.