By Kayleen Holder
If you have ever wanted to help foster children, but simply didn’t have the financial resources to do it, HANK is offering the perfect opportunity in Medina County. The homes are ready, the beds are made, and the play ground in the front yard is already set up….All you need to bring is your love. HANK is actively searching for two couples or single parents who would like to be the heart and soul of HANK, Inc’s community homes, welcoming foster children in Devine and their newest home in Hondo which celebrated its grand opening this Tuesday, September 13.
Foster parents will reside in the homes rent free, with a vehicle included, as well as 24/7 support to care for local foster children and sibling groups in need of a home. HANK will be there to provide support and anything these kids need along the way.
“In the last year there has been an increase in the number of children being removed from their homes of origin and brought into foster care. In the last year, Medina County had 32 children entered the foster care system. Many children are placed out of their home community, due to a lack of foster family placement options. Last year in Medina County there were 6 sibling groups brought into care,” explained Rachel Powers, director of child placement for SJRC.
The process of opening a licensed foster facility can be a daunting one and so that is why Hank and generous supporters created our three community foster homes. Striving to make the process as easy as possible, so that children entering foster care can stay close to home and not be separated from their siblings, the Saint Jude’s Ranch for Children’s program is partnering with HANK to walk interested parents through the whole process.
In addition, the state does provide income for loving families who have it in their hearts to take care of foster children, and Saint Jude’s program, along with HANK, are here to make the process of becoming foster parents a little easier.
HANK homes are one of very few places locally, where 5 or 6 brothers and sisters in foster care can be placed together.
“Children brought into foster care often come with only the clothes are their back. The only thing they have is each other and even that is being taken away from them far too often. We’re asking for the communities help to become foster parents, to care for these children and keep sibling groups together,” Powers said.
This Tuesday, September 13, several people gathered in Hondo to celebrate the opening of the newest community foster home in Hondo, a truly momentous occasion.
Mrs. Debbie Southwell, who will carry on HANK, dedicates this home to her late husband John who passed away recently, but continued working diligently until his final days to help these kids, who are in his own words. “the most precious thing on earth”.
“Because of John‘s faithfulness and diligence, God opened the door for these foster homes so that these unfortunate children can stay in their community and sibling groups can stay together. John fought hard to stay alive to see this home opened. John had someone drive him out here where he saw that everything was done. He passed away a week later. John, we dedicate this home in your memory,” Mrs. Southwell said.
Co-founder Debbie Southwell recognized HANK board members Molly Daniel, Lyle Riff, and Roger Hernandez, as well as the HANK Stitchers (Lou Ann Caywood and Nancy Barrett) who laid a beautiful quilt on each of the 6 warm beds in the home. Pastor Beverly Kelling opened the celebration of this organization that is truly God’s work, with a prayer.
“Every year these remarkable women make quilts for all of the HANK kids, and they truly love getting one of these quilts. It lets them know that the community here loves them,” Mrs. Southwell said. “I would also like to thank our many donors who are the sole reason HANK can help the abused and neglected children in our area. It really does take a village.”
Southwell also recognized County leaders Tim Neuman, David Lynch, and Jerry Beck who were also there to celebrate HANK and everything they do.
“Through Hank, John and Debbie Southwell have done an amazing job of providing safe and loving homes for numerous children in our county,” Lynch said.
“Hank is a blessing to Medina County,” said Neuman. “The many things they do all year round to make sure foster children do not get left out, and to make sure siblings stay together.”
According to Powers, six local sibling groups removed from homes in Medina County recently, and none were placed in Medina County.
“This shows how we desperately need more Medina County foster homes, to keep the children in their community,” Powers said.
Along with their community homes, HANK Inc also provides local foster children with Christmas gifts, school supplies, and anything in between that they may need. There are many situations in which the state doesn’t provide things needed, and that is where HANK steps in with open arms.
“It truly takes a village to care for the community’s most precious children. We want our children and families to remain in their schools and in their home communities. That is what we’re here to celebrate, adding to our village, to help keep children in their community, with the expansion of the 3rd HANK home,” Powers said.
Judge Robert Falkenburg, who presides of child protection cases in Medina County and 6 other counties, talked about the importance of organizations like HANK.
“Every county in Texas, including Medina County, has issues finding placement for children in foster care. It’s a chronic, ongoing issue across the state. I along with many other judges work really hard to get children out of what’s called CWOP (Children Without Placement) and to minimize the number of times children have to pick up and move. Anytime we have placements available in our community, that’s a huge blessing. There have been times when we had no other alternative than to send children out of county. HANK is a great community resource that will help make sure we have a place for these kids in our community.”
If anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent and the HANK homes, they can contact Rachel Powers, Director of Child Placing Agency at 512-791-9410 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to make a donation to HANK Inc helping provide community homes and Christmas/birthday gifts to local foster children in Medina, Uvalde, Real, Atascosa, and Frio Counties, you can mail donations to Hank Inc., 450 CR 246, Hondo, TX 78861.
By Kayleen Holder