Group struggling to keep pace as Brown County CPS cases rise
BROWN COUNTY, Texas - Child Protective Services is reporting an across-the-board increase each year in the number of cases it handles, and that's putting a financial strain on rural counties, including the Brown County Child Welfare Board. The group operates the "Rainbow Room," which serves as an emergency resource for children under CPS care, according to board secretary Connie Wyatt. It provides them with clothes and basic necessities. But Wyatt said they're struggling to keep their "Rainbow Room" fully stocked. In the two and a half years she's served on the welfare board, Wyatt said she's seen an increase in the number of children being helped, which has thinned out the group's budget. "All the cases are confidential so we really don't know the specifics of the children who come in," Wyatt said. The welfare board gets funds from municipal governments, but they mostly rely on fundraisers for the bulk of their money. Wyatt said one thing they're always in need of is baby supplies like wipes and powered formula. "You want them when they go to school to not stand out as foster children, but to look like every other child," Wyatt said. According to CPS data, 108 kids were removed from Brown County homes in 2016, while only 29 were removed in 2013. The number of children in CPS custody has increased from 136 in 2013 to 211 in 2016. Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said the growth can be attributed to more people reporting child abuse cases. "You have to think when you're looking at the numbers that each one of those numbers is a child, that each one of those numbers is a person," Gonzales said. She said removing children from their homes is the agency's last option. "It's only done in situations when there's imminent risk to the child if they're left in that environment," Gonzales said.