By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO
May is National Foster Care Month, and the theme for this year’s campaign is Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families. to highlight the need for a holistic and culturally responsive approach to supporting the mental health needs of those involved with child welfare.
With more than 391,000 children and youth in foster care across the country, and more than 38,000 of these children right here in Texas, the need for more support of the children and youth in care has never been more urgent. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the largest unmet need of children in foster care relates to mental and behavioral health. This is largely connected to their lack of stability, ongoing trauma and limited access to mental health services.
At Texas CASA, we have been working to address many of these issues during the legislative session. We headed into the 88th Legislative Session with a strong list of legislative priorities including:
- Supporting policies that preserve families, promote family reunification when possible and minimize the time children spend in foster care.
- Supporting funding and policies that provide a child access to safe, stable placements in their community that meet their individual need and support their permanency goals.
- Supporting funding and policies that further support and encourage placement with relative caregivers.
With one month left of the regular session, Texas CASA has been supporting and focusing on legislation that aims to amplify the importance of family preservation, support for kinship caregivers and safe and stable placements. You can follow along using the Texas CASA Bill Tracker to see live updates on legislation.
Family engagement is also taking the center stage at this year’s CFE Symposium: CFE for All. CFE is Texas’ team-based approach between local CASA programs and DFPS, Community-Based Care contractors and other child welfare professionals. The team engages, finds and works with family members and fictive kin to create and develop a lifetime network of support for young people in the foster care system. CFE for All is both a celebration and a call to action: a celebration of the hard work, dedication, care and passion that has gone into building connections for children and their families over the last eight years of implementing CFE statewide, AND a call to action for the child welfare network to strive to provide family engagement for all children and families that we work with.
Working to keep children connected to their families and communities is one part of the holistic approach to prioritizing children and youth’s mental and physical well-being. The Health Advocacy Guide and Normalcy Matters Guide are two resources that Texas CASA provides for CASA volunteers to help them be the best possible advocates for children and youth. The Health Advocacy Guide provides a breakdown of the mental and physical health services offered through STAR Health, the Medicaid program that covers almost all children and youth in foster care, so that CASA volunteers are better positioned to make recommendations related to a child’s best interests. Normalcy Matters: A Guide to Supporting Children & Youth in Texas Foster Care looks at what normalcy is and why it matters for young people in the Texas child welfare system. Normalcy is a critical component in healthy social, emotional and cognitive development. Normalcy experiences help youth develop interests, acquire skills and build lasting, supportive relationships – essentially helping young people in foster care be seen as a person, not as a “foster youth.”
This month and beyond, let’s all take the time to raise awareness of how each of us can help strengthen minds and uplift families. By prioritizing kinship care and family engagement, advocating for mental and physical well-being and maintaining normalcy, we can make a difference in the lives of children and families.
Thank you for all that you do,