Gift Of Love: Challenges Facing Gregg County Foster Children - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/26/03-Gregg County

Gift Of Love: Challenges Facing Gregg County Foster Children

Nick Myane and Maria Perez know what it's like to start over. "It's a rude awakening," says Nick. Both of these teenagers were removed from their homes. "It was very difficult," says Maria. Nick adds, "It's real emotional stress that you don't know what's going to happen. You feel alone."

With no foster homes available in Gregg County, they were placed outside the county. "It was almost like jail, but a nice jail. You got food, clothing and shelter," explains Nick. Child Protective Services caseworkers see first hand the effect on children taken out of the county. "They ask a lot of questions right in the beginning and then they get quieter and quieter as they get closer to that foster home as they look out the car window and they don't recognize anything. It's frightening for them and they cling to the case worker," explains Linda Cunningham with CPS.

For Maria, everything was foreign in more than one way. "That was pretty hard because I didn't know any body and they didn't speak my language and I couldn't speak their language," she says. Despite moving between six different foster homes, Maria eventually learned English. While that helped her gain a lot, she also lost something with each move. Pointing to pictures in a photo album Maria says, "These are all the friends I had to leave behind in Dallas. I leave people behind every time I move."

Another thing foster children often leave behind when they are placed outside the county is medical records. "So they're evaluated here and yet they're going elsewhere. So, unless their medical records go with them, then the new doctor has the same problem that I have which is, what happened? I don't know," says Dr. Karen Roberts, a pediatrician at the Diagnostic Clinic of Longview. Doctor Roberts sees the abuse some foster children must deal with. She's working to make sure there is access to their medical records if they leave the county. She's also asking her colleagues in Gregg County to make foster children a priority on their appointment calendar. "Admirably, every pediatrician has said, 'Yes,' they're more than happy to see foster children. We really want to help these kids. They don't have many breaks in life and they deserve the best that we can give them," says Doctor Roberts.

At least for Maria and Nick, their lives are beginning to take shape. Nick is attending Tyler Junior College and Maria is about to get her high school diploma with hopes of also going to college. Just two examples, that there is life after foster care if a child is given the guidance and love they both need and deserve.

If you'd like more information on the Fostering Partners Project in Gregg County, or becoming a foster parent anywhere in East Texas, call our Gift of Love hotline at 1-888-kids-275.

Gillian Sheridan, reporting.

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