In years past I have used this letter to highlight annual grants and activity of the Foundation and to emphasize areas of high priority for our founders and staff. One theme that runs through these letters consistently from year to year is our desire to promote the welfare of children in our community. A measure of the strength of our society is the strength of our families. When the family deteriorates, as it has been doing, the safety, security and general welfare of children is compromised. We have observed this in all segments of society. Our Foundation has had to decide how we can address the causes and effects of this distressing trend. Some of our colleagues have chosen to emphasize the need to strengthen families through programs that are designed to promote marriage, job creation, economic development, parenting skills, education, affordable housing and health care. We too support these programs as essential components of a network of support services that promote the growth and well-being of children. But increasingly we are called to support those organizations that seek to rescue and provide relief to suffering children. Our work in 2013 reflects this emphasis with three grants accounting for 78% of the total dollars granted.
We have supported for some years the work of the TCU Institute of Child Development. We continued to do so in 2013, making a significant grant to provide long term support for the work of that Institute on behalf of children who have experienced trauma or neglect. Under the direction of Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross, the Institute continues to reach a wider and wider audience and equip more and more practitioners and caregivers (especially adoptive and foster care parents) with tools needed to identify the root causes of suffering. Once identified, parent-child relationships may be enhanced through trust-based intervention techniques used to bring feelings of safety and security to the children, thereby promoting opportunities for healthy growth.
Some children who are abused or neglected must be removed from their homes for their own safety. They then enter an unfamiliar environment involving investigators, new caregivers, courts and judges, new schools and health care providers, all leading to a completely new level of insecurity. As they enter this environment, they need a voice that will consistently and with determination speak for them in each setting. Fortunately, there are volunteers willing to speak for these children. In communities throughout North Texas, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASAs, fill this role. In some counties, every child entering the foster care system has his or her own CASA. In Dallas, that has not been the case because of the high numbers of children in foster care and the limitations of time, space and money that prevent the training and supervision of a sufficient number of volunteer CASAs. That is changing now for the better. Thanks to the boldness of the board and staff of Dallas CASA, a commitment has been made to solve the problems of time, space and money so that the foster children in Dallas County will have their voice. Dallas CASA has a new home with room to grow and a commitment to raise the necessary funds to increase staff and therefore capacity to reach more kids. We were privileged to offer our significant long-term financial support for this purpose, and we look forward to the day when all foster children in Dallas County have their voice.
Foster children, when removed from their families and placed with foster parents, also face new challenges involving their health care needs. Many health care providers are not equipped to treat the complex needs of children with acute health care needs, disabilities, developmental delays and mental health issues derived from traumatic experiences that in some cases date back to infancy. Addressing these needs early and effectively is crucial. Fortunately, there are professionals in our community committed to this work. Over the last few years, we have been working with Dr. Anu Partap and her dedicated team in the Foster Care Clinic at Children’s Medical Center. They have developed a comprehensive plan to address the health issues of foster children. At the Clinic, foster children have been receiving the evaluation and consistent care they needed, and foster parents have been equipped to care for their children more effectively. The desired result is that the child’s home life will be more stable, creating a more secure environment that will promote healthy growth for the child. In 2013, Children’s decided to expand this program to reach more children through the creation of a Center for Foster Care Excellence which will focus not only on clinical care, but also on facilitating education and training for practitioners and on research to help prove and then disseminate best practices specifically to impact the quality of care of children in foster care settings. Ultimately, the Center hopes to reach up to half of the foster children residing in the North Texas region over the next few years. As was the case with our grant to Dallas CASA, we were pleased to support this expansion with the goal that as many foster children as possible will receive the best care for all of their health needs, including and especially their needs for mental health services. Communication among all care givers will be enhanced so that care will be well coordinated, and with needs addressed, foster placements will be more stable thereby resulting in better long-term outcomes for the children. We look forward to the day when this plan is fully implemented, giving to thousands of foster children a health home of their own with caring and highly competent healthcare professionals.
We dream of the day when the abuse and neglect of children stops and the protection, growth and development of children will be the highest priority in healthy families. But too many children today are hurting, so we choose as our principal place of involvement the work of those who seek to rescue the children and then provide relief from their suffering. These children cannot wait for family structures to be repaired or for society to change. They need champions today who can then give them hope for the future. We extend our gratitude to those who serve children in these important ways.
Thornton Hardie, President