AUSTIN - At Austin Adoptive Day on Thursday, Clarice Reeves adopted her four grandchildren.
"That means a lot," said Reeves.
She's one of the thousands of moms and dads in Texas opening their hearts and homes. But the Department of Family and Protective Services Spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales says they need a lot more.
"In recent years we've seen more children enter into the foster care system and often that results in more children who are available for adoption cause they can't return to their homes," said Gonzales.
More than 16,000 children in Texas are in foster care. While many are able to return home, thousands cannot. The Department of Family and Protective Services said they're doing a better job of finding homes for abused and neglected children, but said there's still a critical need for adoptive parents.
In September 2016, there were 6,388 children in Texas waiting to be adopted, 215 of those were from Travis County. Gonzales believes there's a misconception that adoption is expensive.
But she says there are actually little out of pocket costs.
"I think there's also a misconception that these children are somehow damaged or broken really these are just children who want to be loved,” said Gonzales.
According to the agency, the average number of children in Texas waiting to be adopted has increased by 31 percent in the last decade.
But over the past year, it actually went down by 2 percent.
In the 2016 fiscal year, 5,672 children were adopted from Texas foster care, which is more than a 3.2 percent increase from the year before.
Two hundred and sixty of those children were from Travis County.
"These are children who have had difficult times in their lives and who really deserve to have a family just as much as every child does,” said Gonzales.
The hardest part, she said is just getting the word out to prospective parents.
"When they think about adoption they think about internationally or maybe a private adoption, they don't automatically think oh adoption from foster care,” said Gonzales.
"But it's worth it,” said Reeves.
Reeves has these four little ones to prove it.
If you want to become an adoptive parent, the first step is an informational meeting. Gonzales said you have to get licensed by the state, which includes a home study on your family. She said they want to “get a good sense of who you are.”
Once the child is in your home, she said you can finalize the adoption within a year.
As DFPS reviews their budget request for next year's legislative session, they will have to address the adoption subsidy and permanency care assistance. The agency estimates in 2016 there will be a half a million dollar shortfall, and in 2017 $2.2 million.
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