TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Across East Texas, Christmas lights are going up on houses well before Thanksgiving.
Some of these homes are also equipped with a special piece of signage from the organization The Fostering Collective.
It reads, “Be the Light.” The campaign was started by the organization out of Whitehouse in an effort to shine light on the ongoing foster care crisis in East Texas.
“We’re concerned that many of those statistics are because of COVID,” said Fostering Collective Founder Justine Hayes during Smith County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning. “We know that with children being home from March through August, and with the heightened fear and things, and when children went back to school there were many new reports of abuse and neglect, so many more children went into foster care.”
According to The Fostering Collective, there are over 1500 East Texas children in foster care. That’s about three times more than the available 500 foster homes in the region.
In Smith County alone, the organization cites about 320 children currently in foster care. That’s compared to 250 for Smith County in 2019.
“This will go in my yard today, so that I can begin that conversation with my neighbors about why my lights are out early,” said Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran while holding his “Be the Light” yard sign in commissioners court. “Even if you’re not fostering or the family doing that, we can certainly find ways to support those families.”
The signs are a simple way to raise awareness during the holidays, but the organization hopes these messages can inspire others to answer the call to help in any way they can.
For more information on how to get involved with the Fostering Collective, click here for their Facebook page.