Photo of Children’s Services client, Tiblets Abreha, who arrived at Catholic Charities Dallas five years ago as an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor from Eritrea. She is now a cross country runner at the University of North Texas.

Today we are talking with Angela Fox, who leads the International Foster Care program at Catholic Charities Dallas.

Angela, thank you for meeting with me today to talk about the International Foster Care program?

Thank you, Susan. I love talking about our program; I’m really proud of the work that we do. We have a very unique program.

What makes the Catholic Charities Dallas International Foster Care program so unique?

Well, most importantly, the youth that we serve is what makes us most unique. We are providing loving homes to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee youth from all over the world: Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Eritrea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other countries. When they come to our program, they’re generally between 14 – 17 years of age, which is an awesome time to pour into them and help equip them to lead successful lives as adults.

What do you mean by “unaccompanied”?

They have either lost or been separated from both parents. Generally, they aren’t being cared for by an adult who is able to care for them long-term and are, therefore, referred to a refugee foster program like ours. The kids may be refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, or youth with special immigrant juvenile status.

The second part of our unique program is that we license foster homes throughout the DFW metroplex for long-term placements.

When you say, “long-term placement,” does that mean that the children are being adopted?

No. Oftentimes, the youth cannot be adopted because the parental rights are not terminated; they are just separated from their parents, who often remain in their country of origin. Unlike domestic foster care, where placements can be short-term, lasting only weeks or a few months, our placements can last years. We try to place youth in foster homes committed to the youth, and the youth becomes part of their family. Youth are in our program an average of 4-5 years, and we want to provide as much placement stability for them during that time as possible. We provide wrap-around services and support for both youth and foster parents to help preserve placements as long as possible.

Angela, what is your favorite part of your job?

Oh, there are so many things I love about this job. These youth have been through so much in their lives – losing or being separated from their parents, finding themselves in a new country where everything is different – the language, culture, food…. They just want to belong to a family that loves them and wants the best for them. It’s such a privilege to have such an impact on a youth’s life – it truly changes the course of their life. It’s also wonderful to see the positive change in the foster parent that opens their heart and welcomes a child into their family. I’ve had parents tell me that the experience has been life-altering. These youth are strong and resilient and have as much to teach and contribute to a family as we do.

That’s great! If someone is interested in becoming a foster parent, what are the requirements?

Well, as a Catholic Charities Dallas program, we prefer that a foster parent share a Christ-centered faith. But I want to stress that parents do not need to be Catholic. Also, the foster parent must live within the Dallas/Fort Worth area and be between the ages of 25 and 65. They must be single (non-cohabitating) or married. And, if there are adopted children living in the home, the family must wait one year after the adoption is finalized to be licensed. In addition, all persons 14 and over in the home must pass a criminal background check, including FBI fingerprinting. The licensure process takes about three months and includes home inspections, around 40 hours of pre-service training, and extensive home study interviews and assessments. The essential requirement is that someone is ready to open their homes and hearts to impact the lives of the youth we serve!

How do I find out more about the program?

We host orientation programs where we review the licensure process, the expectations, and the ongoing support that Catholic Charities Dallas provides. If someone is interested in learning more, we suggest they register for the orientation. There is no commitment involved in attending an orientation session – it’s simply to know more! Even if you find out it’s not a fit for you at this time in your life, you can share what you learn with your family and friends. Also, you can find out about other ways to get involved, such as volunteer tutoring or becoming a host home for a young adult in supervised independent living.

Angela, this has been eye-opening! Thank you so much for your time today.

For those interested in attending an orientation to learn more about Catholic Charities Dallas Foster Care Program, please complete the inquiry by clicking below.