Increased support for foster families in the Highland Lakes is key to a new initiative recently launched by the Highland Lakes Crisis Network. To get the public involved, the network is hosting an area-wide meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 4, at Lake Shores Church, 700 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls.
“There’s a way for everyone to get involved,” said Crisis Network Executive Director Kevin Naumann. “And through this, we can help stop the cycle of generational poverty by providing love and support for foster kids and families.”
Highland Lakes Crisis Network began preparing for its new initiative in late summer. Information about roughly 100 students experiencing homelessness in the Marble Falls Independent School District, combined with the staggering number of children without placement in the Texas foster care system, led network treasurer and Lake Shores Church elder Bob Rogers, Naumann, and other volunteers to recognize the issue as a true crisis.
“There’s an ebb and flow with foster care,” Rogers said. “Groups get excited about it, and then sometimes that dies out. There’s a statistic that says one-half of foster families quit after a year.”
Currently, Burnet and Llano counties have no support group for foster families.
“We’re hoping to help create that,” Naumann continued. “Through this initiative, we’re really trying to create an organization that provides networking, communication, and sustainability.”
The Crisis Network hopes to address needs within each of five areas recognized by Fostering Hope, an Austin-based nonprofit and partner: family preservation, foster care, adoption, supporting roles through CASA and financial help, and assistance for aged-out teens.
The goal is to inform the community, encourage and create support systems for those choosing to adopt and open their homes to foster care children, and partner with existing ministries and organizations.
Since its conception, one of the initiative’s biggest undertakings has been to create housing facilities for children without placement, also known as CWOP.
The acronym refers to children within the system who “must receive temporary emergency care until a licensed, appropriate placement can be secured,” according to a report by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The term is now more widespread as the state’s foster care system becomes overwhelmed due to a lack of foster homes and adoptive families.The average stay in a CWOP facility, which could be a hotel room or state office, was 11.2 days for the 2021 fiscal year.
The Crisis Network has been partnering with Child Protective Services and the state to create CWOP housing at several locations within the Marble Falls area. Children staying at these facilities are provided with safe housing as well as additional care through the network and its partners.
CWOP facilities also could be used instead of sending foster children in the Highland Lakes to places outside of the area, Naumann said.
Within the CASA for the Highland Lakes Area program, 89 percent of child placements end up outside of the organization’s five-county service area, said CASA Executive Director Brittany Grubbs. CASA currently provides legal advocacy for 79 children in Burnet County and 80 in Llano County.
“The CWOP buildings are getting close to finishing,” Naumann said. “But that’s just one piece of the picture. We’ve been spending time getting together with a lot of other organizations doing this type of work.”
Partnering groups include CASA for the Highland Lakes Area; Weakday Ministries, an organization that has recently partnered with the network to create a free closet stocked with household necessities and clothing for those in need; Camp of the Hills, a Burnet-based organization ministering especially to aged-out teens; and Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization dedicated to building beds for both children and adults in need.
“As a network, we don’t want to be redundant, so if a group is already doing something and doing it well, we want to partner with them instead of spending time trying to create something that already exists,” Naumann said.
During the Dec. 4 event, attendees can familiarize themselves with different ways of getting involved in the initiative by visiting booths set up within the church. For more information on how to get involved, visit the Highland Lakes Crisis Network website.