Seventeen Central Texas families grew on Tuesday, with the finalization of adoption paperwork allowing 28 kids to officially find their forever homes.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) wrapped up National Adoption Month by hosting a series of Special Adoption Days across the state.
“We want to make it a big event for the families to know that all their hard work paid off, and find some happy endings,” DFPS Adoption Supervisor David Calvo said. He helped organize Tuesday’s event in Bastrop.
Alicia Downing and her husband Dale Webster formally adopted Mckenzie, 1, on Tuesday. They met her when she was three weeks old.
“We want her to know that she has her forever home now,” Downing said. “It’s a lot of excitement… and happy for no more paperwork.”
She and her husband have four biological children, and also adopted their niece Brittany some years ago.
“I suggest to everybody: adopt, foster, do something. Help in some way, because there are just so many kids out there that don’t have anywhere to go,” she explained, when asked why she chose to adopt.
Child Protective Services (CPS) has been under the microscope of the state, after several child deaths prompted a review of staffing and funding for the agency. According to a DFPS representative, lawmakers injected about $143 million in emergency funding, in addition to the money it normally receives from the state.
Spokesperson Lisa Block said the funding helped provide 550 more CPS caseworkers and investigators, plus 278 additional support staff. Block said caseloads for investigative caseworkers have decreased from 16.9 to 11.4, which is down 32.5 percent.
She also said turnover at CPS has come down almost 30 percent since Oct. 2016, to 18.4 percent. “That is the lowest turnover in seven years,” Block said in a statement.
Calvo said the money from the state has gone a long way, allowing workers more time to focus on each family.
“It is hard for families to work with someone new when someone leaves,” he explained. “I know that the job can be very stressful, but it is rewarding at the end, and this [successful adoption] is the result that we see.”
“We have thousands of children in the state of Texas still needing a home,” he added. “We are celebrating this event while still knowing that there’s children are waiting for their forever families.”
Donna Dickey and her husband adopted Christopher and Benjamin Kohan, two of their great-grandsons, on Tuesday.
“We have had our ups and downs but it really has been awesome,” Dickey said. “They have overcome a lot of obstacles in their course and now it is on the right course.”
Benjamin, 5, said adoption day was “good,” and Christopher, 7, added that the day felt like “a million” special birthdays.
Dickey said adopting her great-grandchildren gives them a sense of security, and gives her “just a lot of joy.”
For more information about fostering and the adoption process, click here to access the DFPS website.