New website connects faith-based organizations to families in need

HARLINGEN — There’s a woman and her three kids. “She’s separated from an abusive husband and we’ve got them moved into a house, but they don’t have any furniture,” says the worker from Child Protective Services.

She’s able to communicate this need through an online resource where local faith-based organizations can help with this situation. The member of the faith-based organization saw the need in an email and wants to help with school supplies for the children and clothing, bedding, hygiene products, and some chairs and a couch. Whatever they need. The faith-based organization, whether it be a church, a food pantry ministry or other similar organization, has received an email after signing up with CarePortal.

Texas Child Protective Services, which is part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, launched the service in 2012. CarePortal is an online resource which connects faithbased organizations with children and families being served by CPS.

The resource signs up faith-based organizations so they can offer spiritual guidance to those who have expressed an interest, as well as provide for their physical needs. “They have created a website in which the department posts the needs required on behalf of children,” said Jesus De Leon, program director for adoption and foster adoption development.

“If a family needs a crib, they will send an email to all the churches in a certain proximity, and a church will say, ‘We can meet those needs,’” De Leon said.

“Then we make the connect between the children and faith-based organizations.”

Last week, CPS held a meet and greet at Stefano’s Brooklyn Pizza, 4201 Business 83. Numerous faith-based organizations gathered to learn about the new service. Three signed up, including Blue Sunday, which served as the facilitator for the session. “This is above and beyond what I expected,” said Cornelia Garza, faithbased recruiter for DFPS. She’d just explained how people can become a part of the network.

“It’s that easy,” she said. “Just sign up.”

She explained afterward that CarePortal is slowly spreading across the state. The new resource was a tremendous success when it was piloted in 2012 in Travis and Williamson counties. More than 200 faithbased organizations signed up at the time. It has now spread into numerous counties throughout Texas.

Presently, Webb, Nueces and Kleberg counties are served by CarePortal. It will be activated here Nov. 4.

Garza said if enough organizations sign up, the whole four-county Valley will be covered.

The next stop for the portal will be Kenedy, Brooke, Duval and Jim Hogg counties.

“We go demographically where there are the most children,” Garza said.

CarePortal was designed by the state of Texas. Online sources show nine states launched their own care portals since last year.

Without the CarePortal, CPS workers have to either call or personally visit a church and ask if the organization would like to help. Obviously, it’s a time-consuming task, made all the more painful when desperate families are eagerly waiting for help.