Since the border crisis started to become apparent, a lot of North Texans have been willing to help the unaccompanied immigrant children anyway they can.
North Texas Families Willing to Open Homes to Immigrant Children
Catholic Charities of Fort Worth Looks for Foster Families for its International Foster Care Program
North Texas cities are scrambling to find food and housing for thousands of immigrant children. Catholic Charities in Fort Worth is prepared to taking in some of the youth. And they're looking for families willing to become foster parents. (Published Monday, July 7, 2014)
Catholic Charities of Fort Worth is prepared to take in 32 immigrant children and is actively seeking volunteers to help.
The group is also looking for families willing to become foster parents, not just for those crossing the border now, but many other children across the world in need of help.
On Tuesday afternoon, the charity held an informational meeting for prospective foster families at its Fort Worth headquarters. Another meeting is scheduled this week on Thursday night.
Officials cautioned that only a small percentage of those crossing the border will be in need of fostering.
Cameras were not allowed inside the meeting, but reporters were able to attend.
During the meeting, Catholic Charities representatives said that any child in need of fostering will have legal status. That means they may have been the victims of trafficking, have no one to care for them and have gone through all immigration hearings.
Presenters told the group that most of the children will be placed with relatives in the U.S. or sent back to their home countries, if there is a safe place for them to go.
Officials said the gathering of about three dozen people on Tuesday was larger than a normal informational meeting.
Afterwards, many families said they heard about the opportunity and were inspired to do something by seeing the coverage in the media.
Many others have long talked about getting involved in the International Foster Care Program.
"It's always been something I wanted to do," said Luis Hernandez.
Luis and Gabriela Hernandez have talked about becoming an international foster family for years.
"Just the yearning of wanting to help, take one of those kids as one of our own," Gabriela said. "I think we're ready for that."
The Hernandez's joined many other families on Tuesday. They learned during the hour-long sessions that it takes prospective families two to six months to complete required training and to become certified.
Most children in need of fostering in the program are teenagers, average age being 15-17 years of age.
Most fosterings last for about five years, as they can leave when they turn 18 or as late as 22, depending on high school education.
Several families in attendance indicated during a question and answer session that they were foster parents already in Texas.
But employees said families must have international certification as well and would forfeit being a state foster family, based on state law.
Catholic Charities employees said international foster care is more like adoption, but without formally adopting the child. They also called it a long-term commitment.
"We're involved in our church, feel like it's the right thing to do," said Doug Mason
Doug and Elizabeth Mason's eldest daughter is already several months into the process of certification. She talked her parents into doing it as well, in the wake of the current crisis.
"If you read the paper and watch the news, you can't help but see the need, just felt called," Elizabeth Mason said.
The desire to help is deeply personal for many, whether it's the images on television or in the Hernandez's case, living it themselves.
"It's like if it was me all over again," Gabriela said.
Both Gabriela and Luis immigrated from Mexico. They became U.S. citizens a decade ago and now feel inclined to help others.
"We speak the language, we know the culture, we are in some ways connected," Luis said. "We feel a very strong connection there, that we can help these kids."
Gabriela also pointed out that as a bilingual family, they could help the children better than most.
Catholic Charities pointed out that foster families aren't just needed for children from South and Central America, but from all over the world. They place children from East Africa and Southeast Asia with families as well.