Saturday, May 25, 2024

Edmondson: Foster families wanted during time of change

Did you know we have an estimated 583 children who are under the care of Child Protective Services in Denton County? And did you know 204 of those children are housed outside of our county due to lack of available local foster families where they can be placed.

This situation seems to only worsen with the phenomenal growth our county is experiencing, so Child Protective Services in Denton County is currently undergoing significant changes in our region as privatization of the program begins.

A new community-based care model, adopted by the Texas Legislature in 2017 in Senate Bill 11, requires the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to hire third-party contractors for regions across the state, including ours. These third-party contractors must then place children in foster care into residential facilities or find foster families, hopefully in Denton County for Denton County children.

The third-party contractor for Denton County is Our Community Our Kids (OCOK) of Fort Worth (www.ourcommunity-ourkids.org/). OCOK, a division of ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth, has been providing services for children in the state’s foster care system since 2014.

ACH began in 1907 as All Church Home for Children and in the 1990s, began to operate services ranging from a Behavioral Group Care Program, Foster Care, and After-Care programs to Campus Respite Programs and more. For example, ACH transitioned The Boys Ranch in Stephenville into a foster home and operates a family-like neighborhood setting with its Wedgwood Campus.

OCOK currently has a contract for services in Tarrant, Parker, Palo Pinto, Erath, Hood, Somervell, Johnson, Wise and Cook counties in addition to bringing on Denton County.

As part of the new community-based care model, the agency also provides direct care case management services to children and families referred to OCOK and are in a conservatorship with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

What will this mean for us locally and, especially, for the children in our foster care programs?

Quite simply, it is too early to tell, but we are hopeful for positive outcomes.

We do know that, initially, the transition impacts staffing at our CPS offices in Denton County, which are having some employees’ positions transferred or eliminated, thus increasing the caseloads for our local CPS personnel. OCOK will ramp up services by hiring personnel to assist our foster families and, especially, the children – which are at the heart of everything.

Add in our rapid growth and some escalation of family issues from the stresses of the pandemic as well as ongoing economic challenges, and the results are showing a slight increase in the number of children being taken into the CPS program.

As a result, the need for Denton County-based foster families continues to grow. We need more local families who are willing to help our children in need. Perhaps your family may be interested in assisting.

Through OCOK, prospective families are connected to private child placing agencies. Foster families are financially assisted in housing, feeding, transporting, educating, and loving the children placed in their care. Foster care children can be placed with a family with one or more parents or with families caring for up to six foster children in their home along with their own biological or adopted children.

My hope is that we can find families locally who are willing to open their homes to these children. Keeping them close to their schools, friends and all that is familiar to them is a major step in helping them adjust in a difficult situation. If you are interested in becoming a foster family, you can call 817-886-7174, send an email to [email protected], or go to www.achservices.org.

We will continue to closely monitor this transition of care. The care of all children, especially those who face challenges, is of utmost importance to all of us on the Denton County Commissioners Court. Through our CPS Board, we are made aware of the needs the agencies and children have so that we can help. Our goal is to give these children the opportunity to become our next generation’s leaders. It is the least all of us can do.

Contact Commissioner Dianne Edmondson at [email protected] or 972-434-3960. You can also stop by her office in the Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Suite 900, in Flower Mound.

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