In 2013, my family's world was flipped on its head. Two little girls walked into our home with shiny backpacks and first day letters from their teachers. They were not aware they would never set foot in that classroom again and were 100 miles away from home. They had experienced great trauma and needed a temporary sanctuary while their parents figured things out. Little did I know that from that point on, my heart would be fully invested in our community’s forgotten families. We provided care for ten children over the next five years and experienced every aspect of the foster care world.
In 2019, we closed our home but not our hearts. I provide home assessments for kinship families, people who are caring for children in the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) system. These children are grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, and children of family friends. When my family decided to enter the foster care system, we took about nine months to prepare our home. Kinship families are given little if any notice, making a life-changing decision with little to no information about what will be required of them.
I have conducted over 125 home studies and have met some of the best people in the worst circumstances. I am truly humbled by their willingness to step in and raise a child on a moment’s notice. I have yet to interview someone who refused to do everything in their power to care for the child and keep them safe, regardless the cost.
When the child is placed in their home, the physical property of the home falls under the regulatory control of Texas Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL). Families are required to child-proof their home with outlet covers and cabinet locks, install smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher, update pet vaccinations, secure their swimming pool, install safety features on trampolines, lock up medications and weapons. The list can also include purchasing a bed, car seat, diapers, and daycare costs. Within the first month, the family could easily spend $500 ensuring their home meets the safety requirements. Multiply this amount if the families are caring for sibling groups.
Families are often unaware of these regulations and are caught off guard when presented the list of items they need to buy. DFPS has some funds available and will provide some items, though the funding is not guaranteed and has to go through the state’s purchasing process. Also, the state of Texas provides less than twice the financial support for kinship families ($346 per month per child) than they do for licensed foster families ($812 per month per child).
With this in mind, I embarked on a mission to assist with the initial expenses for kinship homes. The initial vision of San Angelo Family Network is to supply a care package that contains the most common items, and allow families to request additional items dependent on the child’s needs.
This is the why.