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The Lead Aug. 1, 2022: Walmart gives back to Kerrville's Dietert Center; a conversation about foster care

The Dietert Center's Meals on Wheels is the beneficiary of Walmart gift.

Good morning, Kerr County!

We are on the road this weekend with a quick family-related trip to California, but we found this guy in Tucson, Arizona.

As far as our weather this week across the Texas Hill Country, we can expect more hot and dry conditions, with temperatures expected to be in the 100s by the end of the week. Rain? No sight of rain in the forecast.

On The Lead Live!

With Louis Amestoy out of town today, Texas Hill Country Advisors Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz take over the show today, and they're doing it from their fifth-floor studio at the Wells Fargo Tower. Joining Gay and Paiz will be Leslie Jones of the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, who will provide updates on the weekend's events. On Tuesday, the Symphony of the Hills crew will stop by to discuss the upcoming season.

The Kerr County Commissioner's Court meets today to discuss the budget

The Kerr County Commissioner's Court's ongoing budget discussions continue today, focusing on key funding areas, including public safety.

The court meets at 9 a.m.

Walmart gives back to the Dietert Center

Kerrville's Walmart employees donated $1,000 to the Dietert Center's Meals on Wheels program to ensure its continued viability.

Back row left to right: Roy and Patty Smith, Ed Galley, Justin McClure

When Walmart representatives Robin Anderson (left) and Joni Brasheer (right) delivered a community grant check to Dietert Center in support of Meals on Wheels, they were happy to see one of their own dedicated employees, Beck Wofford (center), volunteering his time in the Dietert Center kitchen before work. Beck, who will be a Tivy High School senior this fall, is one of the valuable volunteers who helps prepare 300 meals for weekday delivery to homebound seniors.

A deep dive into the state's foster care system with Krystle Ramsay on Hill Country Youth Ranch

In the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, there has been a significant focus on Texas' foster-care system, and here in Kerr County, there's an outlier example of foster care at the Hill Country Youth Ranch.

In her second year as executive director, Krystle Ramsay said she feels the focus of federal courts on the state's system, along with her residential care center, being under its own microscope after a pair of former employees faced investigation and arrests for allegedly inappropriate relationships with children at the ranch.

"So, you're working in a system, but you are a system working with other systems," Ramsay said of the complexity of working within Texas' foster care system. "And so, it becomes really difficult because it's so big and you can't like we've talked about all the time. There's not a one-size-fits-all model."

After taking over for longtime executive director and ranch founder Gary Priour, Ramsay has charted her path with a more clinical focus on caring for some of the foster system's most abused and neglected children.

"In the state evaluation, the state evaluates all different types of programs, and we ranked first in many categories when it came to our residential treatment," Ramsay said. "That says a lot because some of those categories, we're going up against 66 other providers. But our kids do so well. It's because we really try to make their life as normal and provide that family environment as we possibly can."

However, the ranch has run into what seems unavoidable for many schools and institutions — allegations of abuse of trust. That's happened twice involving former ranch employees in the last year.

"We love our kids, you know, and it sadly happens everywhere in the school systems, in churches," Ramsay said. "I had someone tell me that people like that are ants drawn to sugar. Like, they're just going to find it out. We do everything we can to set up good safety parameters trying to, you know, enforce things but at the end of the day, I can't allow things like that or that fine microscope to keep me from doing what I think is in the best interest of our kids."

But now comes the microscope of Texas' political situation as opponents of Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans will point out that the state's foster care system is stressed. For more than a decade, a New York-based federal Judge Janis Jack, has raised concerns about the management of the system, and in June, she told the state she would levy fines for not improving or following her directions.

When Texas moved to ban abortion, one upheld by the Supreme Court's decision to return rulemaking to the state, it prompted criticism of the state and a renewed focus on an overwhelmed foster care system. The Austin American-Statesman's editorial board opined the only way to fix the state's system was unthinkable to many state leaders.

"If Texas won't fix a child foster care system that remains dangerously broken after two decades of neglect, the federal government should step up pressure to comply with their recommendations for reform or take the task out of Texas' hands," the board wrote.

And this is where Ramsay is steadfast because she frequently argues that in some cases, children are better off in the institutions rather than being returned to custodial parents or in foster homes, where there is already a shortage of qualified care.

"I think it's a systemic problem, and the goal for the state is always to reunify, right?" Ramsay said. "So, I've seen all different patterns of removals. I've seen patterns of just the culture shifts."

In Ramsay's assessment, many of these children are highly traumatized, and the focus needs to be on creating a safe space for those children.

"I just don't think it's the right way to work with our kids are though those kids are going to be highly traumatized for the rest of their lives," Ramsay said. "They need to look at a different way to meet their educational needs because when you don't feel safe, your brain does not work.So, they cannot go into that same environment and expect them to be able to read, to do the math, to take, you know, the STAR test. It's just not going to happen."

2 Kerrville men arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking

Kerr County Sheriff's Office investigators arrested two men on July 28 on suspicion of drug possession.

Investigators arrested Christopher Oneal Irvin, 45, of Kerrville, and David Guadalupe Alvarado, 40, of Kerrville. Investigators said they found 8 pounds of marijuana, 3.5 grams of methamphetamine, 34 grams of THC, 14.3 grams MDMA, 6.8 grams of Xanax and Adderall, $1,935.00 in cash and two semi-automatic pistols. The sheriff's special response team served a search warrant at a Fifer Street home in Kerrville, where the two men were arrested.

"We are pleased to take this volume of drugs off the streets of KerrvCounty," said Sheriff Larry Leitha. "Our new Special Response Team, working with the newly formed Multi-County Criminal Interdiction Team, put in strong work to stop this criminal enterprise. Both the SRT and our inter-agency efforts continue to deliver clear results for public safety."


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