“We have over 100 cases pending at the same time (now) — over 200 children,” Garrett said. “Some of the mothers have already had children taken away, but they have another.
“We have over 30 cases for August with seven different settings,” he added. “It’s extraordinary.”
The number of cases presents a number of problems, particularly for the children.
In the past, children removed from a home were usually placed with a relative.
“It’s supposed to be a relative placement,” he added. “We don’t have enough foster families. Most of our placements are in foster homes all over the state.”
Garrett said that, in today’s society, there are few qualified relatives to accept custody of a child taken from a home. Too many have the same drug addictions.
Some places are as far as Houston, thus effectively preventing child-parent contact as required.
“That’s over 200 kids taken out of county schools,” Garrett said, explaining that schools receive funding based upon school attendance.
“That’s hurting budgets.”
Garrett also said that the district court workload consists of about 25 percent CPS cases.
So, why are there so many cases?
“It’s generally drug related neglect,” he answered.
He said about 98 percent of the cases are somehow related to drug abuse.
District Judge Mike Moore, County Judge David Nicklas, District Attorney Michael Burns and Garrett determined there had to be a way to intervene before children are taken and before families appear in court.
“There’s a coalition of ministers who are active,” Garrett said, adding that letters were sent to all county churches.
“We have contacted you because most people in crisis contact their preacher or they contact someone who has a church relationship with their preacher,” the letter reads.
“The Addiction Recovery Ministries at 112 S. Oak Ave., Mineral Wells, treats substance abuse issues through the 12-step program and they have recently added a residential facility for men and a second facility for women.”
In addition, ARM offers a number of other programs including values clarification, Walls Must Come Down, adult life choices, youth life choices (parent to child), parenting, budgeting and image enhancement.
“An early intervention program can cut this out before it goes to court,” said Ted Oliver, ARM director.
He said there are three specific classes they hold — addiction recovery, parenting and anger management.
“Others are facilitators, or counselors, on a one-on-one basis for individual issues,” Oliver said.
He explained that he had put a program together and sent it to Moore, Nicklas, Burns and Garrett for review. It was approved.
Now he is looking at putting together a steering committee with representatives from the schools district, police department, CPS, the sheriff’s office and the probation department.
The steering committee will implement the program.
“When a person is discovered with a problem, they are sent to us,” Oliver explained. “It’s about a six-month program. If they’re successful, they get a clean bill of health. It will keep from taking children out of the home.”
He said it is not a pleasant experience to see children taken from a home.
“We’re seeing too many of these cases,” Oliver added. “Right now we have 140 clients, not all of them are CPS.”
The ARM program is known for its successes.
In addition to Palo Pinto County, clients come from Parker, Wise and Jack counties.
Oliver said a woman from Gatesville will be coming for a six-12 month program; a woman from Lubbock had charges dismissed after she agreed to ARM counseling and classes; there’s one from Graham and three from Oklahoma.