Concerns about communication and other issues with Child Protective Services were brought up by two local foster parents at a recent Panola County Child Welfare Board meeting.

“These are barriers that should not exist, and hopefully someone is willing to step up and take a look at this system to make sure it’s working in the best interest of the children who need it most and the families who want nothing more than to provide the best for these kids and be a bright spot in this time in their lives,” the second of the foster parents said.

Both foster parents who spoke at the meeting asked to remain anonymous for the safety of the children for whom they are providing homes.

The Panola County Child Welfare Board seeks to ensure the welfare of children in need in the county. Board Chair Paulette Goree said they wanted to let the community know some of the ups and down of the foster care system and the hurdles foster parents sometimes have to go through in order to get the resources available for the children they are fostered. She expressed hope that they made a good breakthrough after the meeting.

The foster parent who spoke first said she had issues with CPS not answering her phone calls.

“I just got their Medicaid card as of yesterday in the mail, so I couldn’t get their medicine (before then) or nothing,” the first foster parent said. “I didn’t have them three weeks because they won’t answer the phone for me. ...I kept calling them, leaving messages, leaving phone calls, just started calling said ‘Look I need (the) Medicaid number.’ They told me I had to pay over $300 for her medicine, I don’t have it. ... Then she texted me, which I thought was so unprofessional, well I asked about kinship, I said am I gonna get any kind of kinship or anything to help with these kids? And she texted back and said ‘I will appoint you one’ — that was the answer. Appoint me one when? I mean, what kind of communication is this?”

Kristen Hinton, the conservatorship supervisor at CPS for Rusk and Panola Counties, was present at the meeting to help address some of the concerns voiced.

“I’m horrified to hear that you have not heard from the worker and that you can’t get the kids’ Medicaid numbers, because we don’t operate like that,” Hinton said. “We work for the children and their needs.”

Goree said this was just one example out of several.

“It’s three ladies that have gotten children through this, and y’all, I’ve been on this board for 15 years or more, and I’ve never had anything personal that happened that I knew any foster parents or knew any experiences until just now,” Goree said. “...all three of them have had just a horrible experience, and I never knew this to happen, I mean, and then coupled with that, the kids didn’t get their school supplies, which was a first to me in my experience, and this, it’s just crazy.”

The second foster parent who spoke also voiced frustration over poor communication.

“There is a real challenge in getting open, consistent and timely communication, as well as knowledge of what resources and supports are available,” the second foster parent said. “The other part of that is then actually getting those resources in order to provide the best care that you can for a child who is already dealing with a very difficult situation. Some of us are fortunate to be able to navigate that process, as frustrating or overwhelming as it can be. But think about older grandparents or great great grandparents who have suddenly become caretakers — it’s not as easy.”

Hinton said they are pushing for more communication.

“We’re pushing really big, and it’s an expectation from my regional director that as soon as the kids are taken into custody — so as soon as we have legal custody of the children — that my staff begin to reach out to the families that are involved with the children, to engage them in their services and in the children’s needs and what not,” Hinton said. “So I’m hoping that there will be a good push for that and that the communication will definitely improve.”

Clothing for the foster children was also an issue, foster parents said.

The first foster parent who spoke said the children she is fostering came with a trash bag full of pajamas.

“Most of the clothes were dirty, so I threw them away most of it... I mean they didn’t get me nothing,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the school giving me free school supplies and free clothes, I’d still have to spend (money), but they (the school) did help with those.”

Goree voiced her support for the foster parents who spoke at the meeting.

“I applaud these ladies,” Goree said. “I know both of them have a real good support system. If they didn’t have that support system, because I know her parents, and I know (the second foster parent) told me how her family bonded together and said ‘We gotta help her get school clothes,’ and everybody don’t have that.”