CPS: County in need of more foster families

November 7, 2007
By AMY A. COLLINS Reporter

If a fundraiser for foster care was ever more important, it would be this Christmas. A record number of foster children in Hardin County has local Child Protective Services officials seeking help to fulfill a Christmas gift list for more than 37 children. That is the number of foster children Hardin County is currently reporting the most ever recorded, according to Hardin County Child Protective Services. That's why they began holding a fundraiser Nov. 1 to purchase gifts and clothing for the holiday season.

HCN Photo/Amy A. Collins. Brenda Taylor checks her son's backpack after a busy day at school. Anthony Taylor, 5, was one of Brenda's foster children, but she and her husband, James, decided to adopt him two years ago.

"In the past, we usually have about 20 children, but the numbers are very high this year," Hardin County CPS representative Shari Pulliam said.

Pulliam said this year's high count is the result of a combination of positive and negative factors: increased drug use in the area, namely methamphetamine, and people in the community taking the initiative to report suspicious cases.

CPS has been doing more presentations and providing more education in the community about child abuse, neglect, and how to report it, Pulliam said.

"People didn't realize it was their responsibility," she said. "But now they know if they suspect anything, they are to report," she said.

The record number of cases are proof that CPS efforts are working to bring the agency and the community together to combat child abuse, according to Pulliam.

Currently, there are 30,000 children in the Texas foster care system. Region 5, which includes the 15 counties which make up the Southeast Texas region, have close to 900 children. Of those 900, there are 45-50 waiting to be adopted.

Pulliam wants to continue to involve the community in helping foster children.

"The public is not aware that we need more foster parents and more adoptive parents to come forward. There's just not enough in any county in Southeast Texas at the moment," she said.

Pulliam's concern is the lack of awareness within the communities.

"People hear on the news that a child has been placed with CPS and they think that's the end of it, that the child is safe. It doesn't end there. We still have plenty of children looking for that forever family."

November is National Adoption Month and to encourage more families to step forward and become a foster parent or adopt a child, CPS staff will be out around Hardin and surrounding counties promoting the benefits of foster care and adoption.

Pulliam is currently preparing a presentation called the Heart Gallery in Parkdale Mall. The gallery is a traveling art show that showcases life-sized portraits of children in need of foster care.

Pulliam hopes to bring the gallery to the Silsbee and Lumberton Wal-Marts as well.

"The portraits are special because it's not a generic school picture; it captures the child's personality," Pulliam said.

Donations from the fundraiser will help provide assistance all year long, including the holiday season. Donations will be used to purchase school clothes, birthday gifts, little league registrations and other extras that will help foster children have a happy childhood.

"The state covers basic needs, but things like extracurricular activities, special medical needs, and holiday gifts all come from donations," Pulliam said.

"We know there are generous caring people out there and we hope they will help. It doesn't have to be a lot. Pick up a pack of diapers. Conduct a toy drive. It will all make a difference in a child's life," she said.

Brenda and James Taylor of Silsbee have opened their home to 14 foster children over the past six years. Currently, they are foster parents to 3-year old Kim and have adopted 5-year-old Anthony.

Brenda said she wanted to be a foster parent because she could understand the situation some parents go through.

"Some people just need extra help in their life and don't have a family to turn to," she said.

Taylor said she can relate to being a parent in need of help.

"Growing up, I made some choices in my life that resulted in me needing my family's help until I got on my feet," she said. "Now, I want to give someone the help I had."

Her husband James, an employee at MeadWestVaco's paper-testing lab, said he enjoys being a foster parent.

"These kids are like our own; whether we have them for a couple of days, a week, a month, or years. I want to give back to them some of that life I had growing up with loving parents," he said.

The Taylors encourage anyone thinking of becoming a foster parent to take the next step.

"Just call and ask for information at the very least. The joy in knowing you have touched a child's life is a good feeling. We all need somebody."

If you would like to help with the fundraiser, please send the donation to the Hardin County Child Protective Services Board at P.O. Box 1797 Kountze, Tx 77625. For more information about the fundraiser, contact Kari Kennedy at 755-9909.


Emphasis added by H4K Editor