Growing foster care organization receives $400K grant to buy new vehicles to drive children daily

SJRC Texas now serving 10 times more kids than before, meaning transportation is critical

SAN ANTONIO – For a local foster care organization exploding in size, there are some crucial necessities, like transportation for over 800 foster kids they serve.

SJRC Texas used to run two residential campuses serving about 75 kids in total.

“We serve now over 800 children,” said SJRC Chief Development Officer Cynthia Lopez.

In 2021, the state of Texas awarded SJRC the contract to oversee foster kids’ placement and case management in 27 counties. That excludes Bexar County, which the state still oversees.

SJRC created a new division to handle the new job called Belong.

“We had about 75 employees, and now we have over 270,” Lopez said.

Some employees are on a growing transportation team, driving those 800-plus children daily.

“To various placements, doctor’s appointments, court hearings, visitations with their families, picking them up from school, taking them to and from different jobs,” Lopez said.

The few vehicles they had before the grant were older vans, which are great for big groups and the moms they serve with kids. However, they don’t always need that much space, and the vans use a lot of gas.

That’s why the team was elated when Valero Energy granted SJRC/Belong $400,000 for 11 new vehicles.

“Honestly, there was a lot of happy tears, not only because it was a year-long process, but because the vehicles were so greatly needed,” Lopez said.

The new vehicles are regular-sized SUVs.

“If the children are dropped off in vans like that, it made them a little bit self-conscious. But now, because we have smaller SUVs and so forth, it kind of helps them to be able to fit in with everybody else, especially if they’re going to school,” Lopez explained.

Riding to school in an average SUV seems like a simple thing, but Lopez said it provides a sense of dignity for children who have landed in the foster system after enduring abuse and neglect at home.

She said that sense of dignity is all thanks to community members and partners.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and we’re raising 800 children every day, so we need help from the community. We’re so grateful to Valero Energy for being able to provide these vehicles to continue our mission,” Lopez said.

She said any amount from any community member helps.

“Consider getting involved in some way, whether it’s fostering, adopting, donating toiletries, clothing, toys or money,” she said.


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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.