Hidden Foster Care


"Outside of the traditional foster care system exists a shadow system of potentially hundreds of thousands of children removed by CPS to their relatives or family friends—without a court case, monetary support, or due process."

- Roxanna Asgarian Dec 21, 2020

This is an excerpt from an article on theappeal.org written by Roxanna Asgarian. 

In August 2018, Laura* got a call from Child Protective Services. The agency asked if she could pick up 1-year-old Sophie in a small Texas town several hours away from Laura’s home in Houston. 

Laura wasn’t related to Sophie, but she was in the room when she was born. Laura had been in Sophie’s mother Ashley’s life since Ashley was a teenager, when Laura dated Ashley’s stepfather. During that time, Ashley’s mother died by suicide. Since then, and long after Ashley’s father and Laura had broken up, Ashley would call Laura when she needed help. 

And she did need help. In 2005, Laura enrolled Ashley in rehab for substance use disorder. In the decade after that, Laura only heard from Ashley a few times, until 2016, when Ashley called again. She was pregnant, had gotten kicked out of rehab, and was in a bad relationship. 

Laura and her husband built a room onto their Houston home and moved Ashley in. Sophie was born that fall, and the unlikely family began settling into a rhythm. But stability didn’t last. When Sophie was about five months old, Ashley again began to struggle, and Laura suspected that Ashley was using drugs again.

When she found proof, Laura kicked Ashley out. She told her Sophie could stay, but Ashley took her daughter with her out of town. For about a year, Laura kept tabs on them as best she could, with Ashley even bringing Sophie to visit once. But in summer 2018, CPS called Laura with an ultimatum: If she wanted to care for Sophie, she needed to immediately pick her up. If not, she’d enter foster care. 

Laura and her husband decided to take Sophie in while Ashley entered rehab again. The hope was that Ashley would get back on her feet, and that Sophie would be safe with people who loved her. “We never agreed to take the child for the long term, but were more than happy for her to stay in a loving, supportive home, and the only home she has ever truly known,” Laura told The Appeal. 

But Ashley hasn’t been able to get back on her feet since then, and the agreement CPS initiated with Ashley, a temporary custody order, has expired. Laura and her husband have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to achieve stability for Sophie, by placing her with either the couple or another loving family. But Laura and her husband, who had plans to retire, are instead caring for a 4-year-old child—without any legal rights, monetary support, or state services for the girl. (*Laura, Ashley, and Sophie’s names have been changed to protect the child’s identity.)

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