It has been about two weeks since southeast Texas, including my hometown of Houston, has been hit by hurricane Harvey. Like most people here in Houston, Harvey gave me an opportunity to stop everything and just reflect on a lot. On one hand I am ashamed at myself because it took devastation to do this, but on the other hand, I can understand why so much perspective is lost in a world where we are just going, going, going.
One of my immediate thoughts, as the storm just lazily stayed over Houston for so long, was, “I sure am glad I can ride the storm out with family and loved ones.” I did not really realize till the waters started rising right before my eyes that this has more significance than I could really ever give it. There were thousands of people who had to be evacuated with boats. There were thousands who had lost everything they have ever had. Oddly enough though, my brain went from fear to guilt, to a mixed emotion that I cannot quite put into words.
Now, a few weeks later, I wonder what happened to kids who are living at the mercy of the foster system during the storm. I know I was feeling some major cabin fever and, like I said before, I was with the ones I love most. I cannot begin to imagine what children, especially those already in seemingly unstable environments, felt. It concerns me even more because the media never really talked about any places evacuating or any updates about any group homes or even foster families. Most of the stories I saw on mainstream news outlets were about neighborhoods or pets being brought to safety. I know pets are important, and believe me I could not live without my furry friends, but why did I hear so much about the rescue of animals but nothing about the rescue of children who are the responsibility of the state?
It turns out that there were hundreds of kids who did have to evacuate to safer locations during the storm. (I had to do a little bit of digging outside of mainstream news to find that out.) Even though it is not news that the child welfare system needs a little rejuvenation, there are some reports that CPS was actually able to make a timely checkup on the majority of kids after the storm. Most likely, these were not conventional visitations but at least the children were accounted for. In Houston, the CPS workers, like most other occupations, were not able to report to work right away because of the flooding and road closures. Even a few weeks after the storm, the city is not at 100% functionality. I think that although I would never wish a Harvey on anyone ever again, this city learned a lot of lessons about what we need to deem important and the things that are simply secondary.
To anyone who is still displaced because of Harvey, I wish you well. The Center for Children Law and Policy at the University of Houston is more than happy to help in any way we can!
To anyone who fared well in the storm, I challenge you to make an extra trip to a neighbor today and every day (disaster or not) to ask them if they need anything. Let us not forget the lessons we learned during Harvey and lend a helping hand to ANYONE in need!