Many nights – somewhere in a Texas Child Protective Services office – there’s a child sleeping, tucked in somewhere among the desks and computers instead of spending the night with a family. That’s because there are not enough families in Texas registered to foster kids who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
But the situation would be much worse for CPS without the help of these children’s extended families. Thousands of aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends around Texas volunteer to care for kids while they’re in the system. CPS calls this type of care a kinship placement.
Felicita Ochoa smells like flowers. She’s standing by the bus stop in a blue dress with white polka dots. Her kids should be coming home from school any minute now.
“There it is. There’s the bus,” she says in Spanish.
Ochoa’s 7-year-old steps off first. His first question (also in Spanish): “Mom, Are we going out for ice cream today?” Once her 4-year-old is also off the bus, Ochoa grabs their backpacks and all three head home.
Rearing kids is a tough task no matter the parent’s age. But Ochoa says it’s a little harder at her age – she is now 64. It is hard, but don’t get her wrong – she says she’s not complaining.
“My husband and I are happy because the kids are finally in good hands,” she says in Spanish. “And God willing, they’ll remain in good hands”
The Ochoas adopted their daughter’s biological kids this past summer. But the abuse those boys went through at the hands of their parents and their parents’ tenants was heart-breaking. The kids were beaten so hard they were left unconscious and the sexual abuse left them bruised.
Three years ago, the Ochoas were oblivious to all this. They knew their daughter was beaten at home. But their daughter never wanted to leave her partner, that’s why she concealed the kids’ abuse.
Still, Felicita Ochoa says her husband suspected something was terribly wrong.
“Every time they would visit us – when it was time for them to leave – the kids would cry. But they cried in such a way that my husband would cry too,” Ochoa says in Spanish. “‘Something wrong is going on there,’ [my husband] would say.”
CPS got an anonymous tip and investigated the situation. Ochoa thinks someone at the kids’ school made the call. The kids were promptly removed from their biological parents and placed in kinship care with the Ochoas. A couple of years later they were able to adopt their grandkids.