Casa de Esperanza celebrates 30 years

October 16, 2012

HOUSTON — Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos co-founder Kathy Foster can’t quite believe it will be 30 years since she and friend Bill Jones rented a small house on Winbern in the Third Ward to take in abused and neglected children.

With just a $500 donation, they didn’t have any grand plans, only a heartfelt desire to help the most vulnerable members of society, having seen a need in their working lives.

Fast forward to today, and Casa de Esperanza is operating on a $3 million annual budget, caring for about 40 young children at any one time in a modern self-contained community of 14 homes. 

“I just think it’s amazing to think 30 years later Casa is going to go on for decades to come,” said Foster, a former high school teacher.
Foster said her Catholic faith certainly directs them to care for the “least of our brethren…the children.” 

“The sermon on the mount is lived each day at Casa as we feed the hungry, visit those in prison, etc.,” she said. “For me, the most important element of our faith is the hope that it brings to the children… the hope that life holds goodness and love regardless of the way their lives began.”

Foster and Jones are not the only Catholic roots of the agency. Foster said the Sisters of St. Mary Of Namur were instrumental in helping start Casa de Esperanza, and sisters continued to be part of it ever since. 

“Many Catholic sisters have volunteered as caregivers for the children,” she said. “Sister Pat continues to do aftercare at Casa de Esperanza for the families of children who have received services [here].”

The agency will mark its 30th anniversary Nov. 11 with staff, families, supporters and donors and board member and long-time donor Josephine “Jay” Rodgers will be among them. 

Having helped out with funding and volunteering almost from the beginning, Rodgers said it is a stellar organization to be associated with.
“I’ve never seen people that are so good and also so intelligent and so practical,” she said of the staff. “Then there is such an extreme need of the children. Some are so terribly broken, you can’t not want to help.”

Foster, who has adopted six children through her organization, said it is people like Rodgers, long-time volunteer Rita Isgitt and a dedicated staff that have made Casa what it is today.

Since its humble start, the agency has served more than 3,000 children and their families affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness and mental illness. Medical, psychological and educational services have been added over the years, boosting staff to the current 55. In place are such resources to care for children infected with HIV and AIDS. The agency provides counseling and support for biological families and foster families, who take on the children, sometimes on a permanent basis.

At the core of Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos, which means “the house of hope for children,” is the residential program for children up to age six. 

Typically admitted under an emergency situation, children stay anywhere from a few weeks to 18 months, living in the community where they are cared for by extensively trained live-in foster parents and volunteers.

And while the children are being cared for, their parents often are getting the help they need through Casa de Esperanza, so that the children can return home, the main goal of the agency.

“We really felt like what needed to happen was families needed to have a place where they could bring their children and leave to sort themselves out and come back for their children,” Foster said.