Elaine Cantu’s main motivation to become a foster parent was simple.

“I always wanted a girl,” the 52-year-old Refugio resident said.

Elaine had two sons from high-risk pregnancies and one miscarriage. She and her husband, Roland, looked into foster caring children after finding out foster parents are often the first option to adopt their foster children.

The Cantus became licensed for foster care in 2011. 

“They kept sending me boys,” Elaine said with a laugh.

Their first foster children were two brothers ages 1 and 3.

“The 3-year-old was not verbal and they would eat out of the trash. I had to teach them not to go there for food,” Elaine said.

The Cantus fostered the brothers for two years before a judge granted custody of the children to their grandmother in Arkansas.

“It broke my heart,” Elaine said.

After fostering other children for short periods of time, the Cantus decided to take a break from foster parenting.

“I still wanted my girl,” Elaine said.

In November 2013, the Cantus began fostering again and brought 4-year-old Justin into their home.

“They found him walking in an apartment complex barefooted and in a diaper,” Elaine said.

Two years later, the Cantus adopted Justin, who will turn 13 in July.

Just days after Justin’s adoption became official, the Cantus received a phone call about a 3-month-old girl who needed to be placed in foster care.

“I told them I was probably done with foster caring, but to put my name down,” Elaine said. “I told them if she’s meant to be here, God will send her here. I’ll be darned if God didn’t have her delivered here to my house by the next morning.”

Rosalie soon captured the Cantus’ hearts. The Cantus adopted her in the fall of 2017. Elaine had her girl.

The Cantus later adopted another girl, Diamond, and her younger brother, Rocky.

Over 20 foster children have come through the Cantus’ home.

“It’s worth it, but you have to have a strong heart,” Elaine said.

May is National Foster Care Month and acknowledges the 463,000 American children and youth in the foster care system.

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS), the number of unplaced children in the Texas foster care system has risen by more than 1,000 percent over the past two years.

Foster parents receive a stipend from the state for each child. The stipend is based on the physical and mental condition of the child.

Elaine said foster parenting is not for everyone.

“You have to continue taking CPR classes, keep medication logs, perform weekly assessments,” Elaine said. “There is a lot of paperwork involved.”

The Cantus never imagined 10 years ago that they would be legal parents of children ages 6 to 15. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We sometimes ask ourselves, ‘How are we doing this?’ ” Elaine said. “But I would recommend it, because the chances are you’re not going to change their lives as much as they change yours.”

•cslavik@mysoutex.com•

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