In 2015, U. S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack declared that “Texas’ foster care system is broken, and it has been that way for decades.” At the time, the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) had an annual budget of $1.6 billion, with more than half of that funded by the federal government.
By 2023, the department’s allocated budget increased to $4.58 billion.
This is by far the largest department of its kind in the U. S., which is fitting given the state’s population: over 10% of all children in the country live in Texas.
The infusion of funds seems to be slowly having an impact, but many people who spoke to me said the state is still in crisis mode.
“Everybody is tired,” said one Bexar County CPS worker. “Last night I worked an over-night shift, then had to get up and do my regular job. If you see me with bags under my eyes, it’s because I worked last night.”
Forty-five percent of foster kids in Bexar County are placed outside the county, far from their families of origin. That statistic comes from Jennifer Smith, the founder and executive director of the South Texas Alliance for Orphans.
Having worked in foster, adoptive, and kinship care herself since 2009, Smith eventually started a foster and adoptive ministry at Grace Point Church in San Antonio. In 2018, First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio provided funding for them to become an independent 501(c)3 with six churches in the Alliance.
Today, 89 churches support children and families through programs like CenTered, the Foundation Camp retreat for foster and adoptive dads.
“God cares about kids,” Smith told me. It’s her mantra, and rightly so. Dozens of verses call Christians to care for orphans and the fatherless. “It’s a black eye to the church that we have this many kids languishing in foster care.”