The first time I heard about orphans in my community was right after Christmas in the year 2006. You see, I was being investigated for child abuse, and when the CPS caseworker discovered that my child was not being abused, she looked at me and said, “Samantha, the state is going to press charges against the person who is falsely accusing you of child abuse. I don’t have time or funding to come out here and check on a child that I know is safe. We have 200 kids in foster care in Tom Green County that we need to check up on.”
I looked at that CPS caseworker like she was crazy. “There are 200 kids in foster care in Tom Green County?!” I exclaimed questionably.
“Yes ma’am, there sure are,” she replied.
I didn’t believe her. I had grown up in San Angelo, Texas and had never heard the stories of abuse and neglect that our children endured on a daily basis. I was blind to the fact that domestic violence, child abuse, and even trafficking were happening right here in my own backyard. That day, my eyes were opened.
I got on the computer and started looking up statistics on the Department of Family Protective Services website. Sure enough, the caseworker was right. 200 children from my county were living in foster care. To make matters worse, 80% of those children were placed in foster homes outside of our county. This means these children could not keep the same friends or teachers or counselors or doctors. Everything these children knew had been taken from them. 160 children from my county had been completely uprooted from our community and placed in places as far away as Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
Not long after that, I was sitting in church and the pastor read James 1:27. Have you ever had one of those moments where you knew God was speaking to you? “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Those words pierced my heart. I remember thinking to myself,” What on earth have I been doing just sitting in a pew all these years?!” I knew I had a love for kids. I taught twirling lessons in high school and babysat to earn money for my first car. Growing up, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. My first real job was in a nursery for two-year-olds. I remember calling my mom and saying, “I’m never having kids! I smell like poop and throw up! And the parents are so mean!” Looking back now, Mom and I both laugh about that. I knew I had this love for children in my soul, but I didn’t know why it was placed there… Until 2006, when I learned that there was an orphan crisis right here in my city.
HIAOM Board Member
To find out how many orphans are living in your county, go to https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Doing_Business/Regional_Statistics/default.asp
Stay tuned for part 2 to learn what next steps Samantha took to get involved in the orphan crisis in her city!