AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Child abuse hotline inquiries in the U.S have jumped by nearly 14 percent early in the pandemic, according to a research published Monday in the journal Jama Pediatrics.
In our region, the increase in calls is shining a light on a recurring problem, the critical need for foster care homes.
Throughout the years, it has been difficult for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to keep children in Region 1, which includes 41 counties in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, within their home county.
“They’ve just been pulled from a home and everything that they know so, is very important to try to keep the things that we can keep the same normal for them,” said Laura Bownds, supervisor of foster care homes and adoption for Saint Francis Ministries.
The pandemic forced many placement agencies to move training and meetings online, resulting in a backup in the process of potential parents getting verified, making the need for foster parents more drastic.
“During quarantine, we had a whole lot of families very interested in coming through the process, but some of the requirements to become a foster parent are TB test and some of the clinics weren’t doing those,” said Bownds. “Also, obtaining finger prints so, when those slow down, it kind of slow downed the process for families.”
Although the process of getting verified has gotten back to normal, the need for families still prevails.
According to DFPS, in March of 2021, in Randall and Potter counties 378 of 505 children (74%) in foster care were placed outside of their home county.
The lack of foster care homes within our regions continues to have a bigger impact for those kids in the 13 and over age group and those with special needs, as the number of people who apply for those licenses is low as it is.
“We’re hopeful that there will be more families that will have an interest in provide care for kids so that we’re not having to send kiddos, especially the older ones and the sibling groups far away,” said Bownds.
Ones who are expanding their services due to the increase in placements are the Panhandle Orphan Care Network (POCN).
For the last six years, the nonprofit has been doing what’s called placement packages.
“An agency like Saint Francis, they contact us and provide the contact information for the family,” said Matt Darrah, executive director of Panhandle Orphan Care Network. “We contact the family an we say ‘okay, what are some items that you might need for that family.’”
Such items include, diapers, clothing, car seats and more.
The items are collected through donations and stored in what they call Moses Closets. The network currently runs two of those and because of the demand is looking to add a third one at Baptist Church in Claude.
“We’re receiving a lot of calls and we’re looking to spread out to different churches throughout the panhandle,” said Darrah.
POCN currently works with three of the placement agencies in our regions and is looking to expand.
If you would like to help with Moses Closets, you can do so by being a volunteer or donating items.
According to the nonprofit’s executive director, they currently need boys and baby clothing, and items must be new.
For more information on how to become a foster parent, you can sign up for an informational session here.