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Thursday's Child Hero: A Case Worker's Story

Thursday's Child Hero: The Story of a CPS Case Worker.
Photo Credit: Steve Douglas

At this moment, 850 kids from right here in the Texas Panhandle are living in some sort of foster home or facility.

The state of Texas relies on a number of people with loving hearts to care for these children. Some of them are case workers with Children's Protective Services (CPS), a division of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Case workers like Kristin Cruz spend a lot of their time checking on the kids they call their own. "And that's what we call them, 'our kids,' said Cruz.

Fifty to 60 workers in Amarillo are charged with the health and safety of nearly 2000 kids across the Texas Panhandle's top 26 counties. With so many children, it's a constant struggle for the workers to make sure all those kids are doing okay, when they're short two team members.

"It's an extra work load, an extra stress, a lot more travel, because you got more kids," said Cruz.

Kristin and her coworkers travel to almost every town in our area. Right now, Cruz's case load alone involves kids in Dalhart, Amarillo, Canyon, Pampa, Childress, and Lubbock. At last count in July, 1,965 kids were in foster care in the Texas Panhandle. Another 467 kids from our area were living in homes or facilities outside of the region.

"They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t even ask to be born. They were brought into this world and not given a fair chance," said Cruz.

That despair is something Cruz knows could have easily been her own story. She too is an adoptee, given up by her teen-aged parents when she was a baby.

"Adoption is just part of my heart, and when I went to college at 18, I wanted to do social work," said Cruz. For her, it's not a job. It's a calling. "Someone's gotta be there for that kiddo," said Cruz.

She said even though the situation in Texas regarding foster children is not ideal, it is the reality. "The State of Texas are not good parents, and we acknowledge that. We don't want our kids in care. We are responding to a need, and taking care of kiddos who can’t take care of themselves,” said Cruz.

So Kristin, and her colleagues stay attached to their computers and their phones and travel the across the State to play parent. "Our job is to make kids safe. Our job is to keep traumatic things from happening to children who did not even ask to be born," said Cruz.

Kristin works with the adoption unit in Amarillo's CPS office. Her unit is always looking for families interested in foster or adoption. They hold informational meetings about the process, at 7:00 p.m. on the second and last Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is November 14, at the CPS office on 15th Street in Amarillo. You can call their office at (806)358-6211 for more information.

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