Katy families share their stories on foster care as Texas reports an overall crisis with high child take in numbers, and not enough homes to place them in.
The Cantu family has fostered to adopt 8 children. Here they are with 6 of them. Photo credit: Debi Cantu.
Happening in Harris County
The Texas foster care system has struggled for years but this year has seen the crisis skyrocket with stories of kids sleeping in Child Protection Agency offices. This crisis is happening in our area as Harris County reports some of the highest child take in numbers.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services the Houston-area currently ranks number two with 13,625 distinct children served in 2020. The Arlington-area is currently ranked number one.
In June 2021, Texas Child Protective services reported 19,223 child intake for investigation.
Harris County and Bexar County go back and forth in being number one.
The bigger problem is that the agency is struggling to place children. One person in the industry shared that they can often place infants to two-year-olds in minutes but placing older children is much harder.
Also, the ultimate goal is to be able to return many children to their families, so this further complicates the system as many families prefer to foster to adopt.
Empty Nest System Turns into a Foster to Adopt for 8 Katy Children
Katy’s Debi and Erik Cantu were a second marriage and brought five children into their union, but soon Debi got the bug for more.
“By the time I was hitting 40 I felt the empty nest syndrome,” says Debi Cantu. “My mom fostered for a few years after I had left home so I thought that might be what I’d like to do for a while.”
Erik was new to this idea of fostering but told his wife, “whatever makes you happy!”
Debi did a lot of research and she and Erik started taking classes with DePelchin in 1997. They received their first foster child one month into 1998.
“At 2-years-old she was enough to make the faint of heart give up, but I loved the challenge,” says Cantu.
They were introduced to an addicted baby, their second assignment straight from the hospital.
“The constant bottle feeding every 2 to 4 hours around the clock for over 6 months, the many Dr. visits, reading up on crack babies was worth it,” says Cantu.
Soon they were up to four children under 5 years of age!
“We just kept saying yes and became a “group home” with 10 kids,” says Cantu. “I loved it! Our favorite go to place was McDonalds to eat and play.
The Cantu family ended up fostering to adopt eight children, 3 pairs are biological siblings. Today their ages range from 33 to 5-years-old. All but one of the Cantu children live at home.
One Baby “Chose” Her Family
Katy mom Kym Lounder adopted her baby through Child Protective Services (CPS.) Her daughter chose her. The grandfather reached out to her and said that his daughter had a baby born an addict and that CPS had custody. Lounder had five boys so she was excited at the idea of a daughter.
“When I got a baby there were four other babies who to sleep at the CPS office as people are leery of drug babies,” says Lounder. “The baby I brought home was addicted to crack, but she’s a fabulous kid!”
Lounder fostered and then ultimately adopted her daughter. She recalls that it was not an easy task but she learned a lot from CPS and the process.
One Katy Family’s Journey Through Kinship Fostering
Vanessa Trautwein and her husband are currently going through the process to be foster parents.
“I’m actually kinship fostering, which means that my kids are already living with me through the process because they were placed with us through CPS,” says Trautwein.
As a kinship foster, she was related to the biological parents. They were contacted in the middle of the night and given five minutes to make a decision.
“On our side there was no way we would not take them,” says Trautwein. “These kids deserve better.”
The children she is fostering are 9 and 14.
“The process is tedious, but they walk you through step by step,” says Trautwein. “The most difficult part is all the people that come in and out of your home.”
A Struggling System
Trautwein says that the system is struggling because laws keep changing and CPS employees are having to keep children that cannot be placed in the offices.
“Recent laws have also closed down residential group homes for foster children so it’s making it more difficult to place children,” says Trautwein.
Some Private Agencies that Serve the Katy Area
Many Katy families have turned to private agencies as they can often give more one-on-one support.
Many Katy families may feel the call to serve. The need is great right now.
My saying is ‘Walk humble,’ sometimes we think we got all the answers, we don’t,” says Cantu. “But God does!”