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On May 8th, 2018 Children’s Hope attended an event hosted by TTU’s Master’s of Public Administration Program. The event was titled: “Saving the Texas Foster Care System: A Special Panel Event.” Panelists included Senator Charles Perry, Substance Abuse Prevention Professor George Comiskey, Lubbock County Republican Party precinct chair for Precinct 7-Michael Walton, Assistant Director of Finance and Grants at Garrison Institute on Aging-Kandi Quesada, State Representative Dustin Burrows, Chief Program Officer of CASA of the South Plains Lauren Westerberg, Executive Director of Sondra’s Song-Sandi Turner, and Child Abuse Pediatrician Patti Patterson.

Prior to the panel discussion, a short, but emotional video was shown called Re-Moved. It portrayed the common traumas that abused and neglected children experience when removed from their homes. After the video, the panelists began to discuss the current state of the foster care system. Attendees learned that there are approximately 30,000 abused and neglected children currently in the foster care system in Texas. Charles Perry and Michael Walton held the discussion for a while, talking about legislatures meant to increase the number of foster families available. They discussed the collaboration with faith-based organizations, placement of children in rural communities, increased payments to kinship homes, and matching communities’ and children’s religious and cultural beliefs with that of foster home placements.

One of the most interesting points of the discussion came when the discussion turned to foster parents often not receiving the full story of a child’s history, such as about sexual abuse or fetal alcohol exposure. Many times this information does not get shared because of the fear of stigma being placed on the child and difficulties placing the child, but foster parents often feel that they could help the children more if they had the full picture. At this point in the discussion, an individual who had been a foster child stood up and pointed out that if full information were shared with potential foster families, then stigmas would be reduced. Families would no longer have to guess or assume that children would act a certain way, because they would know they were getting the full information from the beginning.

Another interesting point in the conversation was when Charles Perry mentioned that there wasn’t enough money to fund everyone, and discussed the difference between evidence and non-evidence based care for abused and neglected children. Trauma-Informed Care, the method used by Children’s Hope was mentioned as an evidence based and touted as highly successful. PMC was also mentioned and the fact that children have to live in limbo for so long to wait for parental termination. It was stated that judged often automatically extend the 12 months for another 6, until Judge Kara Darnell stood up and pointed out that she is strongly against extensions.

The discussion did not produce an action plan for future change. In closing comments, Judge Darnell stated that foster care system is not the problem. She stated that improvement of the foster care system in Texas has to start with solving the drug, poverty, and homelessness problems in Texas.