El Paso Lacking English-Speaking Foster Homes

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 10:22 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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A dearth of foster home providers who speak English is posing a problem in El Paso, Texas, where increasing numbers of children of military families are being routed to emergency shelters because state officials cannot find English-speaking foster care, according to The Texas Tribune.

The problem is on the Lone Star State’s radar because as Fort Bliss has expanded in recent years, so have the number of young children in crisis care. Military families accounted for about 25 percent of the children who came to the Child Crisis Center in El Paso in 2013, the Tribune reported. Texas is in the midst of a foster care redesign.

"It’s difficult to find placement for a non-Spanish-speaking child in a foster home in El Paso," said Alfonso Velarde, executive director of the Child Crisis Center of El Paso.

According to U.S. Census data, 81 percent of the residents of El Paso, which borders Mexico, are Hispanic, compared with just 18 percent of the Fort Bliss population, where whites make up 61 percent. Seventy-four percent of El Paso residents speak Spanish at home, according to Census data.

Fort Bliss, home of the Army’s 1st Armored Division, has 34,411 active duty soldiers and an additional 44,837 family members, according to an installation overview.

The Army post’s population has tripled since the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process that transitioned it from an air-defense center to an armor center, according to the Tribune.

At a hearing discussing implementation of the foster care redesign, state Democratic Rep. Naomi Gonzalez asked Velarde to testify about the burgeoning problem in El Paso, "where placement capabilities are already strained by the varied English proficiency levels among potential foster families in a majority-minority city with a growing military population."

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