If you are reading this blog, it’s no surprise to you that our child welfare system in Texas could benefit from change. Many child advocates and social workers involved in child welfare know where the systemic problem lies: lack of funds. Lack of funds for wages and stipends, and for training employees. Lack of funds for hiring employees. Lack of funds for ensuring developmentally appropriate screenings and healthcare. Lack of funds for office spaces, for legitimate residential care and foster homes and necessary supplies, for carefully and frequently auditing such programs and homes to keep up standards. With such profound underfunding, it is a wonder our system functions at all. It is due almost entirely to the tireless, dedicated individuals who comprise the child welfare system, who constantly troubleshoot and tweak to make the system work as best it can for our community’s children.
Although it is certainly an uphill battle, ACH’s Our Community. Our Kids. (OC.OK.) and the DFPS are up to the challenge. In a little over a year, Foster Redesign has increased the number of foster homes in the Tarrant County region exponentially, even in rural Palo Pinto County which jumped from 3 foster homes to 20. Additionally, children are mindfully being placed as often as possible within 50 miles of their community of origin. ACH has additionally set benchmarks for performance that all agencies must meet or exceed, including limiting the number of placements for any one child to 2 within a 24-month period.
Part of this success builds upon the ability of ACH to take a sort of grassroots approach and capitalize on the connections in the community they have already established. First3Years is proud that ACH has now partnered with Safe Babies to more deeply and thoughtfully coordinate service provision, in order for children and families to have their needs more completely met in a more timely manner. In addition, OC.OK. is promoting coparenting (seen in Safe Babies as Fostering Relationships Coparenting) as a best practice for fostering. The goal in mind is to encourage birth and foster parents to engage in a peer mentorship that can empower birth parents to become the great parent they have the potential to be. The language is changing, the culture is changing, and the outcomes are changing for the better.