Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Giving of themselves

What a wonderful gift to these otherwise forgotten children.

God Bless them and the people who are working to make their Holidays a happy one.

No child left without


Foster children, separated from or forgotten by their parents, will have Christmas presents under the tree this year.

On Tuesday night, volunteer members of the Comal County Child Welfare Board gathered at the neighborhood clubhouse in the Riverforest Subdivision, along with members of the New Braunfels Service League, to wrap more than 100 presents for children currently in foster care in Comal County.

“I think people presume that, because this is a nice area with nice homes, that these things don’t happen. We try to give these children dignity to their desperate situation,” said Mary Alice Altorfer, a volunteer with the Comal County Child Welfare Board (CCCWB).

CCCWB is an all-volunteer board that works in partnership with the United Way and Child Protective Services to provide emergency supplies to children in the immediate 24 hours between removal from an abusive home and placement in foster care.

The Child Welfare Board provides diapers, infant formula, clothes, canvas bags, blankets, pillows and other essentials that the state of Texas would otherwise not provide.

They do this by stocking the Rainbow Room, a small warehouse of goods accessible at the CPS offices so foster families and children have immediate access without needing to wait for child support checks.

The Christmas gifts were purchased with donations from the United Way, donated jury duty earnings and private donations.

“Right now, about 146 kids are in foster care in Comal County. Some foster parents said they don’t need help, but we are providing gifts for well over 100,” said Susan White, chair of the CCCWB.

“Three more court dates are scheduled for possible home removal this year,” she said, adding that last year at this time there were 52 children in foster care or who were about to be placed in care.

“It is really a big epidemic in Comal County, but it is not just here, it’s all over the state,” she said.

White said one reason might be both greater education and the enforcement of mandatory reporting laws, each of which contributes to a rise in reporting that may not be linked to a rise in abuse.

“I think the economy has had an impact, but child abuse has always been around. The numbers are scary, but people are calling it in. People know now that protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and that they are criminally liable for that,” White said.

Because of the high cost of providing all the Thomas the Train Engine, Indiana Jones and Granimals play sets to so many children, and because CCCWB spends most of its resources on stocking the Rainbow Room throughout the year, New Braunfels Service League members paid for all the gifts for children ages 5 and younger.

“For about 10 years, this women’s group (NBSL) has promoted volunteerism. Members sponsor a child and pay out-of-pocket,” said Elaine Weichsel, president of the NBSL.

Altorfer sees the service the two groups are providing as filling a gap in family relationships the children otherwise may never know.

“We’re like a good aunt and uncle, stepping in to fill a void,” she said.