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      Children dying in foster homes prompts state action

      Following an alarming increase of children dying in foster homes around the state, The Department of Family and Protective Services Council of Texas has decided to institute new rules for potential foster parents.

      Eight children died from abuse or neglect in foster homes last year. This has led the state to approve a set of new safety related rules to more thoroughly screen potential foster parents.

      The Department of Family and Protective Services Council recently approved a long list of rules to reverse the alarming trend of children dying in foster care. Beyond existing requirements, which presently include interviews, a criminal background check of all adults in the household and a home visit, the new rules include:

      • Interviewing a family member who does not live in the prospective foster care home
      • Two additional interviews with neighbors, clergy, school employees or community members
      • Interviews of all adult children of foster parents
      • A financial background check
      • Identifying major life changing events

      A major life changing event can be defined as events that are a major disruption that causes what was a good foster home to turn into an unfit home for a child.

      Keith Howard, the state director of Arrow Child and Family Ministries, says that he welcomes these changes. Keith is both a foster parent and the director of a non-profit that directly deals with foster placement.

      ??We want kids to have safer homes; we want it to be a good environment where all kids can thrive. I think the department, the department of family protective services is looking to do the same thing??, said Mr. Howard. ??There have been a number of suggestions and rule changes that have come down the pipe to better ensure that foster parents are being screened more properly.??

      Edna Zach, another foster parent and the president of the Amarillo Foster Parent Association hopes that the changes won??t discourage people from becoming foster parents.

      ??It may make it a little bit harder to get people to be foster parents or adoptive parents because it is a lot of work to go through??, said Ms. Zach.

      Despite all of the stringent requirements, both Mr. Howard and Ms. Zach said fostering has changed their lives.

      ??Being a foster parent for me is opening our hearts and home to love, to love kids who need love during that season,?? said Mr. Howard. ??I??ve been doing it for nine years and it??s totally a blessing to help these children that need a home,?? said Ms. Zach.

      The new, tougher rules to screen prospective foster parents will come into effect in September of this year.