Adoptions in Texas are on hold for the summer. That's because the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services ran out of money in April. That decision put couples and children across the state in adoption limbo until the new fiscal year starts in September. For children who have been waiting a long time, any delay is significant. We take a look at how it's affecting East Texas foster children. In order to protect the children, we will continue our policy of not using last names or locations in this story.
15 year old Britney has been in foster care since she was 8 years old. We first introduced you to her last year on a Gift of Love report. She told us how she's waiting anxiously for a permanent home. "Cause I haven't had one and I want to know what it feels like. I want one to make me feel loved and then at least I'll know I have someone who will care for me," says Britney.
A Texas couple recently stepped forward saying Britney would be perfect in their family. "My wife and I had wanted children for a while," says Jentry. However, the state didn't have the funds to pay the private agency the couple went through to complete the adoption. Denise McDonald, Child Protective Services Program Administrator, says, "We had more children placed for adoption than we anticipated through the private agencies. Consequently, the money from our federal and state government was used more quickly than we anticipated." McDonald says this has never happened before. Why now? She says, "Adoptions have increased." McDonald adds, "I think we've accessed every available resource we could for finding placements for children. We opened it up to more private agencies in the last couple of years."
As a result, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services budget of $2.7 million wasn't enough to pay the 30 private agencies for their adoption services, which can be up to $10,000 per child. So far in East Texas, three private adoption agencies are doing what it takes to make sure adoptions in this area are not delayed. They are: Christian Services of East Texas, Lutheran Social Services and Methodist Children's Home. McDonald says, "They don't want to hold up permanency for a child just like the state doesn't want to hold up permanency for a child. So every agency has been very willing to step forward and say we'll reduce our cost for this amount of money, or we'll wave our cost or if you can help us do a certain task we'll wave certain expenses so that we can move ahead because everybody has the child in their best interest."
It's exactly what happened for Jentry and his wife Sue Ann. Methodist Children's Home waved its fee so they can adopt, Britney, the daughter they always wanted. She was placed in their home about a month ago and now waits for the adoption to become final. "My wife and I talk about how we can't imagine before, not having children. It's so much busier but it's so fulfilling. It really is," says Jentry with a smile.
Britney will not only have the loving parents she's always wanted, but a brother who was adopted a year ago. Jentry says, "It's been fantastic. They're both amazingly good kids." Britney has been waiting seven years for the Gift of Love and has long thought what would be her first words to her forever family. "I'd like to tell them as soon as I get home, 'I love you and glad I'm here.'"
There are 15,000 Texas children currently in foster care. Of that number currently, 3500 are legally free to be adopted. If you'd like information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent call our Gift of Love hotline. The toll-free number is 1-888-kids-275.