Thursday's Child: Foster children evacuated from Harvey now in Texas Panhandle

Flooded streets in Houston, Thursday, August29 Photo credit: ABC News  

Three foster children from the Texas Panhandle are Hurricane Harvey evacuees. According to Amarillo Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Adoption Supervisor Micah Smith, three children from our 26-county region escaped Harvey before the hurricane made landfall.

Two of those children live with relatives in the Houston area, and escaped to safe places with their relatives. They are both back in their Houston area homes today. A third child lived in a residential treatment center in Houston, and had to move to a new placement because of extensive water damage.

Smith said Houston is a common placement for foster kids from the Panhandle because there are often not enough placements in our area, and Houston has more treatment facilities that can better meet the needs of children with behavioral and physical disabilities.

Currently, close to 100 foster kids from the Panhandle live in Southeast Texas homes and centers. Smith said the social workers who oversee those cases are keeping close tabs on all of those children.

"We are calling and checking on them constantly. When the hurricane was ongoing, we were doing daily calls if we could, facetime if we were able, and checking in with the caregivers. Our main concern was making sure our children were safe, had enough supplies, and that their mental well-being was o.k. because it's a scary thing. It's very frightening because most of our kids from the Panhandle have never been through a hurricane- much less one that is a catastrophic event. The CASA workers and the attorneys for these kids are also making direct contact; it's a team effort. The bottom line is: we are concerned about our kids in this area, and we want them to know that we're thinking about them and that we will make sure they're o.k.," said Smith.

Children's Protective Services (CPS) is always looking for families who are interested in becoming licensed to foster or adopt children. Anyone can visit with them in person Saturday, September 9th at the Amarillo Civic Center's "Ruffles and Rust Expo," from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

From beginning to end, the licensing process takes about three months to complete. The first step is to attend a CPS informational meeting at 7 p.m. on the second or last Tuesday of each month, at Amarillo’s CPS office at 3521 SW 15th Street. The second step involves six weeks of classroom training, followed by paperwork, background checks, and home inspections. Once social workers believe a potential family can handle the task of caring for children, they'll write an in-depth report about the family’s history.

The cost for the process is minimal. Home inspections run about $100; finger-printing runs $40 for each family member over the age of 14; and CPS pays up to $1200 in legal fees for the adoption of a child whose biological parents no longer have parental rights. Social workers say often times the legal fees do not exceed the amount of money the State is willing to pay.

For more information, call Amarillo’s CPS office at 806-358-6211.

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