Child welfare workers across the state of Texas continue working to find safe housing for hundreds of children in foster care who do not have adequate placement. Leaders at Gladney Center for Adoption have been trying a new model they believe can lead to more successful adoptions and free up needed beds in the foster care system.
The program is run at their residential center, Gladney Home.
“We didn't just want to be another cold facility,” Supervisor Heather Rogers said.
Rogers gave NBC 5 a tour of the home, which looks like a college dorm. Each girl gets her own room and bathroom that she can decorate however she likes.
In the dining room, you can see a chart where the girls can request favorite foods and see the schedule for equine therapy, sports, and other activities, like shopping.
“We try to do our best to make them feel at home,” Rogers said.
It's part of their strategy to help the girls learn to trust and build relationships, while advocates search for their forever families.
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“Our hope is that when she comes to us, we're able to create a safe and loving and nurturing environment for her so that she can be herself and let her walls down,” Rogers said.
In 2019, when Gladney opened its doors to teens in foster care, Texas was starting to see more children that the state could not find safe placements for in a crisis referred to as Children Without Placement (CWOP).
“We hear a lot of stories about kids sleeping in offices and sleeping in hotels and things like that, because it's just growing more and more. That has to somehow get stopped,” said Gladney Center for Adoption President and CEO Mark Melson.
Melson believes that since they're a housing provider and a placement agency, they have a unique opportunity to get to know the girls so they can better equip adoptive families for the road ahead.
“What are her superpowers? What does she do great? What are the things that sometimes set her off the other side as well? How do we help her so that when we place her into that loving, caring family, we are setting her up in that family up for success,” he said
That setup is critical because agencies report that 10 to 20 percent of adoptions don't work out. Counselors at Gladney are working to make the transition to adoption easier and sustainable for children and their new families.
“We call it family for life,” Melson said.
Melson and Rogers say the goal is successful adoption, but sometimes that isn't the outcome. Some girls choose not be adopted. Others age out without finding a family. No matter what happens, they want to give their girls the tools and lifelong community they need for a successful future. Counselors at Gladney remain connected to the girls and work to support them when they're gone.
“We want to make sure that her time with us is impactful, that she remembers a place that she was safe and loved. Always,” Rogers said.
Melson also believes their center is underutilized. Right now, they have five girls living there and 10 open beds.
They say that CASA volunteers and other child welfare workers who need a safe place for kids can contact them. You can learn more here.