Reforming Foster Care in Texas

In the wake of the tragic news that 2 Texas children drowned at Lake Georgetown earlier this month while in the care of their foster family, Texans Care for Children, an organization focused on public policies impacting children, has renewed its call for reform within the Foster Care system and Child Protective Services (CPS). In addition to advocating for higher standards in the foster family screening and training process, improvements in the role CPS plays within the system remains a core issue for the safety of these vulnerable children.

CPS workers are responsible for monitoring foster children periodically to ensure a safe environment for them. The Child Welfare League of America states that the best practice guideline is 17 children per worker. In Texas, a typical worker is responsible for 32 concurrent cases, and some workers have 40 children to monitor (2013).

Two developments have led to the need for public input and participation to improve our foster care system. First, a spike in foster care children deaths in Texas occurred: jumping from 2 in 2012 to 10 in 2013. Second, the State of Texas is undergoing “Foster Care Redesign,” a project with renewed emphasis on the use of private contractors to place children with families.

Advocates have called for the public to express their concern. Texans Care for Children released a report delineating several policy recommendations that may reduce the risk of further tragedies for vulnerable children.

The House Select Committee on Child Protection is holding a public hearing on Thursday, July 24 regarding the following topics:

  • Examine regulatory policy and contract oversight within the child welfare system

  • Suggest improvements to the screening, assessment, training, and support of potential foster and kinship families

  • Evaluate the ability of children and youth within the system to report maltreatment

This is an opportunity to communicate with those who may directly change the structure of the system which safeguards the at-risk children in our communities.

Adam McClure, MD

For more information on the Public Hearing:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/schedules/pdf/C1652014072410001.PDF

For more information on the drowning:

http://www.kristv.com/news/siblings-who-drowned-in-lake-were-in-foster-care/

For more information on Texans Care for Children:

http://txchildren.org/Default.asp

http://txchildren.org/Newsroom/New-Report-on-Ways-to-Save-Lives-in-Texas-Foster-Care

For more information on their policy recommendations:

http://txchildren.org/Publications/Safeguarding-Children-in-Texas-Foster-Care-Key-Issues-in-Policy-and-Practice-Recommendations-to-Improve-Child-Safety-in-Foster-Care?&Sort=

For more background on CPS workloads:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/article/Foster-failure-fosters-tragedy-5539888.php

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