Panel Aims to Educate Community on Foster Care Changes and How It Can Help

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Three boys walk through the Children's Shelter property.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Three boys walk to the playground at The Children's Shelter of San Antonio.

Foster care in Texas is a complicated issue, but local nonprofits have been working together to improve the experience for children since The Children’s Shelter of San Antonio was awarded the regional contract to provide foster care and case management services to children who enter State care in Bexar County.

Since August 2018, Family Tapestry, a division of The Children’s Shelter, began working with 30 local agencies including foster care and adoptive agencies, faith-based groups, and philanthropic partners to build a system of care that meets the needs of youth in care and those aging out of the system.

Family Tapestry officially assumed the role of finding paid foster care placements for children and young adults on Feb. 1. Placements include extended care, adoptive recruitment and associated services, Preparation for Adult Living, and Supervised Independent Living for young adults. 

On Monday, area partners will gather at San Antonio College‘s Visual Arts Center to educate the community about the new system and discuss how to help the network leverage the city’s strengths to the benefit of one of some of its most vulnerable residents.

The panel conversation, moderated by Rivard Report Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard, will include The Children’s Shelter President and CEO Annette Rodriguez, who said that in the last six months the organization has been able to identify gaps in services for this population. She said she hopes the conversation will bring the city together to address the needs of foster care children and young adults.

President and CEO of The Children's Shelter Annette Rodriguez.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Annette Rodriguez is president and CEO of The Children’s Shelter.

“One of the biggest gaps we have seen have been services available to the older youth in foster care, in particular those who have aged out,” Rodriguez said. “We are seeing those who age out continue to struggle with complex issues including multiple traumas or mental health issues, and they just didn’t have the resources of the resiliency to be successful.”

Rodriguez said that, because The Children’s Shelter doesn’t want to turn away any kids in need, they have been reaching out to “figure out … the right model for these youth.”

Also on the panel is State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), whose work in the most recent legislative session included several foster care reform bills, including House Bill 45, which aimed to create a State-sponsored mentor program foster care youth who age out a better shot at a healthy future. While the bill was left pending in committee, Minjarez told the Rivard Report the need for more services is something that San Antonio and Bexar County have to continue to fight for.

“These kids have had a hard life and they need more support. A lot of these kids end of homeless, end up in human trafficking situations, or are in jail or prison,” Minjarez told the Rivard Report. “In terms of services available currently, there is still a great need. And we also have to do a better job of letting people know what help is out there now.”

Panelists also include Saven Hoff, a foster care youth who participated in the THRU Project, which provides guidance, support, and advocacy to youth to prepare them for life after foster care. The organization sets them up with an advisor who acts as a friend and life coach. Most organizations do not provide services past the age of 21, but at the THRU Project, there are no age limitations.

“A number of kids when they age out of the system simply don’t have someone to turn to in their personal lives who they feel close or comfortable with, and that can lead to a lot of issues along the way,” Minjarez said.

The fourth panelist, Tullos Wells, is the managing director for the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, which gave $1 million to help The Children’s Shelter transition foster care services from under the Department of Family and Protective Services and institute policies to ensure compliance with State law locally.

He said the reason the foundation aided the transition upfront is that “supporting key social service entities is something that everyone in this community has a stake in.”

“The problems that come out of a non-functioning foster care system deal with crime, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues – they deal with things that that touch our lives daily,” Wells said. “If there is anyone in San Antonio who doesn’t have a vested interest in the success of the foster care program here – we want to help them” understand that the care these children receive affects everyone.

The panel, Community-Based Care: Transforming the Foster Care Experience, will take place from 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, at 299 W. Dewey Place and is free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

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