Austin-area foster care nonprofit helps record-breaking volume of families

Christel Deskins

Foster Village supplies families in foster care with basic needs to take in a child. AUSTIN, Texas — As the pandemic presents problems and stressors for families, children in the foster care system are feeling the aftermath. “I think the stressors from the pandemic have just caused a lot of […]

Foster Village supplies families in foster care with basic needs to take in a child.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the pandemic presents problems and stressors for families, children in the foster care system are feeling the aftermath.

“I think the stressors from the pandemic have just caused a lot of increase in economic hardship, mental health issues and relapse,” said Chrystal Smith, the founder and executive director of Foster Village. “That trickles down into families needing extra support and services, and if they have that lack of support, oftentimes it results in abuse or neglect.”

In recent weeks, Smith believes this has caused them to be busier than ever, supplying families taking in emergency placements with the resources and materials they need to meet that child’s basic needs.

Last week alone, Smith said the nonprofit fulfilled 40% more requests from families than normal. In total, they have served 40 families over a 24-hour time period, when usually they help 60 families in an entire month. 

Emergency placement refers to children who are placed in substitute care with little or no notice from caregivers.

“I think it’s important they are in an environment where we can have other grown-ups and other safe people are making sure their basic needs are being met,” she said. 

Smith speculated the rise could be due to more individuals reporting cases of abuse and neglect as the state reopens and children in the system step out into the public eye once again, like going to school.

While Smith said the collected data was strictly for their records, she feels it is highlighting a key problem area for these children: isolation. 

“I think it’s important they are in an environment where we can have other grown-ups and other safe people are making sure their basic needs are being met,” she said.

According to data collected by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), in 2019, the majority of reports of abuse and neglect were filed by medical staff, schools and law enforcement. 

However, a spokesperson for the department found that in July and August, their data did not show an increase in the number of children taken from their homes during those months. September data was unavailable.

In addition, between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15, the state reported 18,000 calls to the Texas Abuse Hotline (1-800-252-5400) in 2020 and 20,300 calls in 2019. Similarly, DFPS also saw a drop in August reports between those years. In 2020, there were 28,400 calls and in 2019, there were 31,700 calls. 

Foster care advocates have told KVUE on multiple occasions this data does not necessarily mean less children are being abused or neglected, but it is likely the abuse is underreported. 

As more families visit Foster Village to get the help they need, Smith said she has been overwhelmed by the support from the community as many people help restock the shelves. 

If anyone is interested in donating to the cause, visit Foster Village’s website.


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