ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) — In this fiscal year, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), in Abilene, has done more than one-thousand investigations on child abuse and neglect.
However, through all the chaos, just how does the department try to alleviate the stress of these children?
One of the things they utilize is a room called the Blue Bonnet Room.
What seems like a room full of brand new merchandise is only just the half of it.
“Without this room, our case workers would not have anything onsite to help the kids immediately. We’d be having to access other resources throughout the community, which could take valuable time away from our kids and try to find them that placement,” Brittany Wade said.
Wade is the community partners coordinator for Child Protective Services. She is part of a team of CPS workers in Taylor County working to bring comfort to children, while they go through what can be a traumatic experience.
“Often times when a child is removed from their home because it’s unsafe, they come here so that we can find placement for them, either with a foster family or next of kin,” Wade said.
Removals can happen in the middle of the night, in the wee hours of the morning and sometimes on Christmas Eve.
“One thing that we always want to avoid is never having a child to carry their belongings in a trash bag, which can be common in other areas of Child Protective Services across different states. So, we have duffel bags and backpacks here to give them that sense of dignity, to know they are important and we care about them and we’re not going to let them walk out of here with a trash bag of their belongings, going from home-to-home,” Wade said.
This emergency resource site can also be used by families in need that the facility is working with. A case worker simply walks in the room with the child and allows the child to pick out clothes that will last them 48 hours and toys to keep them entertained.
“We all kind of pitch in as a team to entertain the kids, be there for them, because it can be a traumatic experience and just to reassure them, just to let them know what steps are coming up and what’s going to happen, so that they feel more comfortable,” Wade said.
Often times, it is not even a comfort to a child, but it is a medical necessity.
“If one of our kids that we are caring for, test positive for methamphetamine, we usually need to remove them immediately. In those situations, methamphetamine will stick to skin and clothing, so it’s important that we change them right away.” Wade said.
The CPS workers at the DPFS office are always prepared for what is to come through their doors.
“A little bit over a month ago, we had a runaway teenager that was actually a child out of Houston and she was placed here”, Kanwal Nadeem said. “Instantly, she felt not so tense anymore. She had been saying she had been in jeans that were dirty. She was like, ‘You have no idea what it feels like to just put on a clean pair of clothes. It just made her feel so much better. Her entire demeanor changed after that.”
As a conservatorship worker for CPS, Nadeem says her role as a CPS worker is fulfilling, knowing she is making a difference in children’s lives.
“That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to make differences in children’s lives and in families’ lives and it makes you feel like you’ve don’t something worthwhile in that moment, even with something so small,” Nadeem said.
The department said it also had to remove more than 200 kids from unsafe situations, so you can imagine just how often the Blue Bonnet Room is used.
Ways to help the Blue Bonnet Room can be done through donation drives, volunteering and donating funds. More information can be found here.
Volunteers are appointed by county commissioners.
The Child Welfare Board manages the Blue Bonnet Room.