AMARILLO, TX – 300 panhandle children are without a family or a place to call home this holiday season, and a local family is urging those with even a slight desire to adopt, to get more information.
The Amarillo branch of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services hosted an event with Wendy's at the Wendy's restaurant on 34th and Coulter in Amarillo Tuesday. They offered advice to aspiring adoptive presents, displayed some of the local children needing homes, and watched the movie "Home for the Holidays," that aired on KFDA.
"We do this every year to just bring awareness that there are kids without a family or a home for Christmas," Adoption Supervisor Micah Smith said. "That's what a lot of these kids ask for for Christmas. When am I going to get my home? That's a hard question for us to answer."
Smith said the number of panhandle children in temporary foster care of group homes has been steady for years, but they always have difficulty keeping siblings together and getting older children adopted.
"Most of our kids are older," Smith said. "School age all the way up to 17."
Jessica and Raymond Cazares of Amarillo adopted a set of four children in July of this year, ages four through 12. They already had two children of their own.
"Most people don't want a 12-year-old," Jessica said. "They want a baby that's cute and shiny."
Smith and Jessica say there is a stigma associated with older children who are in the foster care system. A stigma Jessica knows well. She aged out of the foster care system, having more than 10 foster homes from the age of 13.
"People always assumed I was a bad kid and that I was some kind of quiet murder or something," Jessica said. "I wasn't. I just came from a family of not so good people…. And that's how I felt about my kids. They were put in this stigma of behavioral issues or aggressive and I probably had those same labels,"
Jessica said one of her sons had those same labels, but after realizing he had a forever, loving home, he flourished.
"Kids are going to rebel no matter what when they know they're not with a forever family," Jessica said. "But when the judge said we were done, I saw in their hearts that something had changed. "
If you think adoption could be a possibility for your family, the Department of Family and Protective Services offers free information sessions on the first Tuesday of every month, at 7 p.m., in their office at 3521 SW 15th in Amarillo.