• Community-based care model provides increased chance of foster children remaining in the community

    August 28, 2023

    Through the Community-Based Care model, a new way of providing foster care and case management systems, children who have been removed from their homes due to experiencing suspected abuse and neglect have an increased chance of remaining in their community with families who have answered the call to open their hearts and homes to needy kids.

    The public received an entire evening’s worth of education on local child protection and abuse prevention resource coordination efforts during a meeting of the New Braunfels IDEA Forum hosted by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County.

    Presenters included Kane Jaggers from Belong, a division of SJRC Texas, and Kristin Evens from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

    Traditionally, DFPS is responsible for locating a foster home or other living arrangements for that child.

    In the Community-Based Care model, Belong, rather than DFPS, finds foster homes and other suitable living arrangements for foster children and youth in the 27-county area of South Central Texas and the Hill Country.

    In April 2021, SJRC Texas, formerly St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, was awarded a contract through DFPS for its division Belong to serve as the lead provider of Community-Based Care. Belong launched its services in October 2021.

    Last year, Belong transitioned to a second stage of Community-Based Care. The second stage allowed the agency to assume additional responsibilities of case management services of the child welfare system.

    Belong staffers work alongside the DFPS to support children and families impacted by trauma through prevention services and ongoing support. The agency collaborates with various organizations within Comal County to help bring the community together to create a safety net for children and families and help bridge resources to those in need.

    According to statistics presented by Jaggers, 35% of children removed from homes this year due to suspected abuse are placed in living arrangements inside Comal County. In addition, 45% of those are placed with kinship family members. Other placements include shelters, foster homes and other accommodations inside and outside the county. The ultimate goal, Jaggers said, is family reunification or adoption.

    Jaggers cited some reasons those in-county or kinship placement numbers aren’t higher.

    “The kids coming into care are children who are older, who have high mental health needs, who are of minority status, who come in large sibling groups,” Jaggers said. “A lot of individuals in the community have a stigma of what it looks like to be a foster home. But we’re in the home once a month. CASA is in the home once a month. If there’s another agency involved, they’re in the home once a month. We as a culture do not support those who answer the call to be part of the solution.”

    Of the 175 Comal County children under Belong’s care, 45% are ages 0-5, 34% are ages 6-13, 13% are aged 14-17 and 8% are aged 18 and up.

    The Belong statistics show by gender, 96 of the children removed are girls, while 79 are boys. Broken down by race or ethnicity, 49% are Hispanic, 31% are white, 9% are black and the remainder of the children are multiple races or “unable to determine.”

    “We need to do a better job of supporting these people who say ‘I’ll help,'” Jaggers said. “Maybe it’s not to be a foster parent. Maybe it’s to be a mentor. Maybe it’s to help babysit. Maybe it’s to foster a foster family. There are other ways we can be part of the solution.”

    With Comal County working together, families can be connected to services to help increase parenting support, mental health services, and community education and awareness to prevent children from being removed and decrease the trauma they experience.

    In 2022, there were nearly 57,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Texas, according to DFPS statistics. More than 8%, or 1,447 cases, occurred in Comal County.

    “It is up to each of us as members of the community to protect children and ensure that they have the resources necessary to lead productive lives,” Evens said. “Every child deserves to be safe and feel secure.”

    Jaggers and Evens said child protection agencies hope to increase the number of foster homes, develop and maintain community collaboration with various stakeholders, identify philanthropic donors, establish a motivated group of volunteers and obtain space for a foster home supply closet.

    For more information on how to be part of the solution, join Belong on the first Saturday of the month for a virtual informational meeting by registering at https://sjrcbelong.org/events/.

    SJRC Texas has been a foster care provider in Texas for about 40 years, operating a residential operation, child-placing agency and prevention programs. Offices are located in San Antonio, Bulverde and New Braunfels.

    Find additional information on the IDEA Forum and future events at www.nbideaforum.com.

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