The need for foster care families continues to grow in Central Texas as more children are removed from their homes.
Often times, they enter foster care because of neglect. parental abuse or drug use.
If there aren't enough families in Central Texas, kids will often have to be placed in homes outside of their city or county of origin.
During Foster Care Awareness month, families who have fostered children encourage others to open their homes to these children.
The Oates family in McLennan County said it was the best decision they have ever made.
"It's been the biggest blessing for our family. We wouldn't trade it for anything," said Elizabeth Oates.
She and her husband became foster parents in 2014, even though they already had three children of their own.
"The most rewarding part is knowing that you are playing a role in changing a child's life," Oates said.
She admits, however, that it can be challenging.
"A child could be removed from your home at a moment's notice whether they're being reunified with their birth family or whether they're going to live with a relative. That is sort of out of your hands," Oates said.
She and her husband ended up adopting two toddlers they had once fostered through Arrow Child and Family Ministries. The nonprofit trains parents to become foster parents and helps place foster children with licensed families. In addition it provides case management for each family after a child is placed in their care.
"We want to be a part of helping these children who need safe, stable homes," Oates said.
Arrow Case Manager Brittni West said there is a need for more of those stable homes in Central Texas.
"This last month most of our homes are currently are filled," West said. "We are even now looking for foster families who need that safe environment."
Arrow Child and Family Ministries and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services hope they can find more foster families, the more locally they can get to sign up, the better.
"Everything being different is traumatic. Being able to keep them in their same community and their same county is so much easier on the child," CPS Foster and Adoption Development Supervisor Lori Fergueson said.
There is even a chance, then, that the child will find a forever home, like the one the Oates' two adopted children, found.
"We always say it has been the best thing and the hardest thing that our family has done but I think that is true for any type of parenting," Oates said.
According to DFPS, in McLennan County 50 out of the 214 children are staying with families locally. 149 out of the 326 children from Bell County in foster care are staying in temporary homes in that area.
CPS really needs to find families who can care for siblings and older children.
If you want to become a foster parent, there is an informational meeting on May 14 in Waco. It will be at 801 Austin Avenue starting at 5:30 p.m. You can find out where other meetings will happen by visiting the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website.
Arrow also has informational meetings the first Tuesday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m. at 1101 Wooded Acres Dr. Suite 111 in Waco.
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