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'Laser focus' needed on foster care, says Bexar County leader

Texas is experiencing a shortage of 1,000 foster care beds. The region surrounding Bexar County alone is in need of 250.

SAN ANTONIO — There's a shortage of 1,000 foster care beds across Texas. That's according to SJRC Texas.

In and around Bexar County, the number of children needing a home is expected to rise with school back in session.

KENS 5 is taking a closer look at the problem and what's being done about it.

"The system obviously is broken within the State of Texas," Bexar County Commissioner Trish DeBerry told her colleagues Tuesday following a yearly review by the Child Welfare Board. "There needs to be a laser focus on foster care."

Right now, more beds are needed to serve children in need of a safe place. This shortage exists not just in our region, but across the state.

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In response, state leaders and organizations teamed up and created the Blue Ribbon Task Force. 

"We're looking specifically at foster care, what's called 'step-down care,' which is what essentially caused the crisis we're currently in," Marcie Treviño  Ripper, chair of the Bexar County Child Welfare Board, told county commissioners Tuesday. "High-needs kids didn't have a sufficient place to go and they were going to regular homes or other regular residential centers, and it was disruptive to the entire system."

Tara Roussett, the CEO of SJRC Texas and member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, helps children find their forever families.

She says with school back in session, she expects the number of children in need of foster care to rise.

"The teachers, the community are really the first line of defense for noticing when things are going wrong in the life of a child," she explained. "When (everything) was all closed down, there wasn't as many reports because there just wasn't the people with eyes on to make the reports."

According to SJRC, the region is short 250 foster care beds, affecting 28 counties. 

Credit: SJRC Texas

"The trauma these kids in foster care due to their abuse and neglect have experienced is just getting worse and worse every day," said Roussett.

These children who experienced trauma need "step-down care."

"Not a hospital setting but a step down, least restrictive (method) to wrap around these kids and give them the mental health services they need," she added.

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To help fill the gaps, SJRC plans to grow its network by working with other state organizations to place more children.

They are also offering specialized training to foster parents along with giving stipends to foster families to help them earn a livable wage.

SJRC is also launching a foster care recruitment campaign.

"It's going to take us all to solve this crisis," said Roussett.

To learn more about how you can donate financially or by giving essential items, visit SJRC's website. You can also learn more information about becoming a foster parent.

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