It takes five laundry baskets and a whole lot of energy, but on Mother’s Day, Bethany and Ruben Castro are parenting five young children — some who joined the family only a few months ago.
Since she was an adolescent, Castro has taken notice of the importance in caring for other people — whether those be children or adults. Now, she is the executive director of Perpetual Help Home in Victoria. Outside of work she fosters four children alongside her daughter Alaska.
Perpetual Help Home is a Christian-based organization in Victoria that focuses on assisting women who are experiencing homelessness. The home, in turn, also assists their children.
But before her career began, Castro, 33, said she was aware of homelessness and those without consistent family units while traveling through other communities.
Her father was a minister when she was growing up.
Through some of his outreach work, she remembers being a teenager in Waco and Pettus when she noticed other kids didn’t always have stable homes, parents or reassurance.
“And so they were really part of our church,” she said of those children her family worked with through her father’s church. “And then there were a couple years there where one of the kids from the house was with our family for holidays.”
Whether over holidays or in day-to-day life, having personal connections with children in foster programs or in similar programs continued when she went to teach in San Antonio.
While teaching through a Teach for America program, she met Damian, a high school football player who she realized lived in a home without his biological parents.
After building a relationship with him, she went on to take him to a senior-year football game for senior night as other players had their parents alongside them.
Since then, she said they have continued to keep in contact even though he went on to attend college in Oklahoma, and she now lives in Victoria.
“So I guess that was my ‘splashing-in’ to caring for kids,” she said.
In Castro’s time in San Antonio, she dated her husband and would go on to move to Victoria.
In the past year, the couple has committed four times to taking care of children.
In March 2020, they took on two foster children. Then just before and just after the February winter freeze, they agreed to take on two more — bringing the family unit to seven total under one roof. To protect the children, Castro didn’t want to reveal their ages.
Nowadays, weekends can feel nonstop she said — like 24 hours a day, two days a week.
Because their lives are so busy on weekends, Castro said they are not planning anything special for Mother’s Day.
Between work and the pandemic, she said bonding with everyone and staying energized can be a challenge for her and her husband.
But finding ways to bond — like her husband driving around with the windows down blasting “Frozen” songs for the girls — is one of many ways to keep them engaged.
“I’m addicted to being busy,” she said. “And fostering is a good way to do that and do something good.”
As of May, she said none of their foster children have been due to be given back to their biological parents or transferred.
“Everyone asks ‘Is that going to be hard,’” she said. “And I don’t know yet, we haven’t had to.”
For those interested in fostering a child or learning more about getting involved in the Victoria area, foster agency Area Director Lesley Perez said people can fill out an application or register for an orientation.
Her work involves supporting the foster program as area director for Upbring, a nonprofit foster care and adoption service spread across Texas that offers other services such as disaster relief.
“Talk to your spouse about what you are comfortable with and what your hard nos are,” she said. “Also consider the age range and gender (of potential foster children) because foster agencies can be pretty specific for the demographics.”
Upbring is a statewide organization with offices in all the major metropolitan areas, she said, and people involved like Castro are “a great example of a foster parent.”
Giving her foster children back will be hard, Castro said, but in her line of work she understands why it is “so important.”
She sees many parents at Perpetual Help Home have their children return to them after recovering or meeting other milestones.
So whether it is her own foster children or the biological children of the women she works with, she said it is her goal to see many people get their kids back.
Urgent repairs still need to be addressed at Victoria’s school district, but it’s a matter of how.
Victoria residents rejected a $156.8 million bond proposal May 1.
The proposal called for the rebuild of Stroman Middle School and Mission Valley Elementary School. It also called for district-wide repairs including updates to roofing, HVAC systems and plumbing along with the addition of playgrounds at each elementary school.
Victoria Superintendent Quintin Shepherd discussed what the bond failure means for the district and those urgent repairs.
“It does not mean the needs went away. If the needs were there leading up to the bond Friday night, the needs were there Sunday morning,” Shepherd said. “We have to find a way to address those needs.”
Shepherd said there are a few ways that the district could address the repair needs of its facilities, but none would amount to what a bond could have done.
The repairs that would have been addressed with the bond are urgent, Shepherd said. For example, last week’s rain brought 24 reported roof leaks.
Throughout the district, heating and cooling and plumbing systems are also in much need for repairs, Shepherd said.
“We can’t address them all,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a way we can carve out enough from our budget.”
One way to fund some of the repairs would be the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, Shepherd said. The funds are allocated from the federal government down to the Texas Education Agency, which distributes it to districts across the state. Victoria’s school district is anticipated to receive $28 million-29 million from that fund.
The funds are to be used to help the student achievement gap, but they can also be used to improve air quality. About 20% of the fund needs to be used in the classroom, and the rest is to be used at the discretion of the district, Shepherd said.
This would need board approval and discussion, which Shepherd anticipates happening during May and June board meetings.
About 15% of Victoria’s registered voters turned out to the May 1 election. The May 1 ballot had three school-related items including the bond and two board seats.
Shepherd said he would have liked to see more people go to the polls, but he doesn’t know if that would have changed the outcome.
“Deep down I want there to be a large turnout,” he said. “There is a part of me that is more hurt by the actual turnout than the vote.”
Shepherd said he has a “skewed perspective” when it comes to voting on school-related items.
“I love education so much that I dedicated my life to it,” he said. “Every second of every waking day I’m thinking about schools.”
Despite the turnout, Shepherd is grateful the item was presented to the community, he said.
It’s hard to say if and when Victoria voters will see another school bond, Shepherd said.
During the last bond process, the district referred to a bond task force that was open to the entire community and that group was in a 90% agreement on the bond item. The conversation now turns to how the district could better connect the task force conversations with the community for future reference, Shepherd said.
“We learned something about ourselves,” he said about election day results. “We learned something about our district.”
The district has needs that are difficult to address without a bond, and upcoming board meetings will focus on how to move forward, Shepherd said.
The board is scheduled to meet May 20 and again June 17.