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New online service connects volunteers with kids in need

An online service that connects volunteers to local Child Protective Services caseworkers has launched in Denton County, thanks to six Denton churches and two local judges.

Denton Community Church, Sage Meadow Christian Fellowship in Justin, First Baptist Church of Ponder, Lifeline Church, Morse Street Baptist Church and Faith Tabernacle Assembly of God were the first to complete the required training that allowed CarePortal to become active in the county.

CarePortal needs a small group of churches to launch its service in a county, according to Kyle Johnson, regional manager for the nonprofit that is affiliated with the Global Orphan Project. The nationwide service carefully connects church volunteers to caseworkers whose clients have emergency needs, such as a car repair or a set of bunk beds. CarePortal has launched in 25 other Texas counties so far. 

The Denton portal was launched this week at South Branch Library, Johnson said. Denton District Judge Sherry Shipman of the 16th District Court and District Judge Tiffany Haertling of the 442nd District Court, outlined the conditions that make it difficult to keep families together, Johnson said.

More than 600 Denton County children were in CPS care last year.  Yet, the county, population 753,000, has just 40 foster homes to serve kids in need. Because of the scarcity, some Denton County children have been placed in Houston-area foster homes, Johnson said. 

In addition, caseworkers managed more than 4,400 cases in Denton County last year. When volunteers and caseworkers get connected in real time to help with a family’s emergency, that can help keep those families together, Johnson said.

In December 2015, a federal judge ruled the Texas system of foster care violated children’s rights to be reasonably free from the risk of harm. Gov. Greg Abbott listed reform of the state’s system as a legislative emergency. Reforms, including additional budget appropriations, have been introduced, but the Texas Legislature has not yet sent a reform package to the governor’s desk.   

Several other Denton-area churches are getting training to join the local network shortly and there's room for more, if other church groups want to join, Johnson said.

The portal makes it easier for church groups to uncover real needs in the community, he said.

"You don't have to plan all your outreach," Johnson said. "It's a really great way to connect to opportunities."

Other church groups interested in helping can contact Johnson at kyle@goproject.org or visit the portal for more information at careportal.org. 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

FEATURED PHOTO: Volunteers helped remove an unsafe swimming pool from a Denton backyard in 2015 so that a grandmother could pull her grandchildren from foster care and adopt them.
DRC File Photo