Marble Falls Daybreak Rotary Club lends helping hand for foster care awareness

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — Have you ever thought about becoming a foster parent? Probably not, but the Marble Falls Daybreak Rotary Club hopes you’ll consider it. In fact, club members recently took it upon themselves to reach out to the community to encourage people to at least think about foster care.

“We identified one of the biggest needs we have out here is foster parents,” Rotary member Eddie Arredondo said.

One of the club members, Barbara Warden, suggested the Rotarians do something to promote adoption, especially of local children in need of a home. As the organization dug into the issue, members learned from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that foster parents are a critical need.

This struck particularly close to Arredondo, who as the Burnet County attorney deals with situations involving children removed from their homes.

So far in 2013, his office has already handled 64 cases involving children and the Child Protective Services. That, he pointed out, is just the case number and not the total number of children involved since each one could include multiple youth.

When a child or children are removed from a home by CPS, officials often place them in foster care if an appropriate family member cannot be located. Unfortunately, the lack of foster parents in Burnet and Llano counties means children from those communities must be placed elsewhere.

“Typically in Burnet County and the contiguous counties, when children come into care, they end up in Travis County or Bell County,” said Leigh-Anne Easter, a DFPS foster/adoption home development specialist.

Relocating a child or children outside the community from which they came compounds issues for CPS, attorneys and Court Appointed Special Advocates as well as others involved in the case, especially the parents. It means additional travel for everybody involved, which can cut down on the interaction with the children.

“Outcomes for children are greatly improved when the foster or foster/adoptive home is located in the county of removal,” Eaton said. “In fact, CPS policy is that a child is placed within the same county they are removed from and within the same school district whenever possible.”

Even if the child is placed in foster care outside his or her original school or school district, Texas law stipulates the youth can attend that campus. But officials said it becomes extremely unfeasible the farther away the child’s foster care placement is from the school.

One of the goals of foster care is to limit the additional trauma children go through, so keeping them within their community and school is extremely important. But without adequate foster parents or foster homes, it’s difficult to meet that goal.

So the Daybreak Rotarians are crafting a plan to encourage local people to at least consider fostering and possibly adoption.

The first step, Arredondo said, is creating a speakers bureau where club members or other individuals learn about fostering and adoption. Then those individuals go to other groups or organizations.

Retired Judge Guilford Jones, a Daybreak Rotary member, said the object of the speakers isn’t to get people to sign up to become a foster parent or possible adoptive parent but to get them interested enough to explore the concept. From there, the DFPS would step in with informational meetings.

Arredondo said the plan is to really build awareness.

“The goal is to identify the possible foster parents,” the county attorney said. “The department will host the training. (Club members) will support the department any way we can.”

daniel@thepicayune.com