Lupita Enriquez from San Juan was a nurse working at a hospital 15 years ago when she and her husband decided that they wanted to get into foster care. Now Benchmark Family Services, a company that provides foster homes for children, has given more than 200 kids a home with Enriquez.
For Enriquez, being a foster parent has become a passion that has enabled her to become a better person.
“I do it because I like it,” Enriquez said. “For me it’s like a mission, like something that I have to do in this lifetime.”
Enriquez also said that she feels that her legacy is these children who pass through her house year after year.
“I felt that there was something in me that said I have to leave a footprint here on Earth with these children,” Enriquez said. “I have to do something for those kids that arrive at my house day after day.”
The longest period of time that a foster child has stayed with the family is four years, and now Enriquez is going to adopt the child who is living with her now.
“We love him and want to give him a permanent home,” she said. “We want to give him the security of not having to jump from house to house.”
Benchmark Family Services is an organization based in New Carlisle, Ohio. They have offices all over the country and the local office here in the Rio Grande Valley is in Edinburg.
“Our focus right now is to make the public aware of the need for more foster homes,” Celine Garza, regional director for Benchmark, said. “Every week we get calls from child protective services that they need places for children and we’re rejecting about 25 children a week because we don’t have space.”
May is National Foster Care Month and Benchmark Family Services is trying to get the word out to the public because they need foster parents.
Garza provided some information about becoming a foster parent.
“To become a foster parent you have to be over the age of 21, have a steady income. We do criminal background checks, fire inspection. If you’re married it has to be for at least two years and single parents,” Garza said. “The only ones we don’t accept are married couples who are separated because if you can’t show stability in your own relationship, then we can’t accept you.”
For full criteria the staff at Benchmark Family Services can help with any questions one might have about becoming a foster parent. Visit their website at www.benchmarkfamilyservices.org or call them at 956-383-4945.