CIBOLO, Texas - As state lawmakers grapple over how to create a legislative fix to improve the Texas foster care system and Child Protective Services, some people outside Austin have been making strides on their own for years.
One such group is Trulight 127 Ministries, a licensing agency and support provider for foster families, founded by former CPS investigator Sondra Ajasin.
“When kids come into care they, in general, come with the clothes on their back,” Ajasin said. “And some of those are not even worth calling clothes.”
“I picked up a sibling group of three and the little girl had blisters on her feet from walking around in San Antonio on the ground where its hot and she didn’t have any shoes,” Ajasin recalled. “Her little brother was wearing size 6 months clothes and he was almost 18 months. It was just really sad to see them coming in with so very little.”
Today, Trulight 127 provides foster children with backpacks stuffed with socks, underwear, toiletries and clothes that kids can call their very own and take with them from foster home to foster home.
Playful items like coloring books or toys may make their way into the backpacks if Trulight 127 has them in supply.
The backpack project was born out of Ajasin’s experience working with foster children and her own childhood spent living in poverty.
She remembers packing up with her mother in the middle of the night to leave their home before a landlord discovered they were gone.
“I can’t put on a pair of shoes because I left them at the last house. Or, 'oh, I once had a pair of pants I could wear to church and look cute in, but I left them three houses ago,’” Ajasin reimagined, recalling similar moments she shared as a child. “That loss is kind of a reoccurring loss for these kids when they lose everything.”
Ajasin has seen a child go from untrusting and suspicious to joyful and confident just by having something they can write their name on.
Trulight 127 also provides foster families with supplies like diapers, bottles, clothes and even equipment like car seats.
"The kids came with a few clothes, but none of them were appropriate sizes,” said Noella Rivers, a foster mother who came to Trulight 127 to pick up clothing for her two new foster children.
“The baby didn’t come with a bottle. I had a little bit of formula, but Trulight brought all of that stuff the next day,” Rivers said.
"They didn’t ask for the hurt, they didn’t ask for the abuse, they didn't ask for the neglect,” said Ajasin. “But now they’re here. What are we going to do about that?”
Ajasin’s organization is doing what it can to answer the call.
“My belief is that the state is there to keep kids safe. That is their job is to keep kids safe,” she said. “I believe that we as a community are there to care for those kids.”
Trulight 127 reminds foster families how to have fun through its Project Foster Destiny. Donors sign up to put together baskets that correspond to a monthly theme. Movie night baskets would include DVDs, popcorn, a blanket, etc.
Ajasin says it’s a way to remind foster families to forget about the abundance of court dates, therapy sessions, and doctor’s appointments and spend time together as a family.
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