Foster care reform still 'not enough'

Foster care reform still 'not enough'

Are children in the Texas child welfare system safe?

by Blake Paterson of The Houston Chronicle

Nonprofit finds issues in solutions passed in May

Gov. Greg Abbott called on a federal judge to drop a case considering court supervision of Texas’ beleaguered child protection system; he argued the four pieces of foster care reform legislation he signed into law in May would fix chronic problems.

But representatives from the advocacy group Children at Risk disagree, arguing at a news conference Thursday that significant gaps in the foster care system are yet to be addressed by the state Legislature.

Unfortunately what we’ve seen is a Band-Aid put on foster care, and a lot more needs to be done.Dr. Robert Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk

He called the solutions passed by the Legislature “shortsighted” and “really not enough.”

The nonprofit compared the bills that lawmakers passed last session, which addressed the state’s foster care system, with four dozen recommendations from federal courts on improvements needed in the system.

Are children in the Texas child welfare system safe?

Sanborn highlighted three specific issues that were not addressed by the Legislature, including improvements needed in the child abuse hotline, in the tracking of child-on-child abuse among foster children and in the caseload management system.

The courts recommended the creation and promotion of an anonymous hotline for children to report abuse or neglect in a foster home or facility, though no such hotline has been created, Sanborn said.

The courts also found that caseloads were unsustainable, with workers juggling up to 30 cases at a time, burning out nearly 1 in 5 workers every year. Legislation was passed to study the issue and to create a caseload management system, though no limits were placed on the number of cases a worker can have at one time.

The recommendations arose from a 2011 lawsuit alleging that the Texas foster care system violated children’s constitutional rights by keeping them in unsafe care, moving them around repeatedly and failing to provide sufficient oversight.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ruled that the system was “broken” in 2015 in a 255-page ruling and demanded that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services overhaul how it oversees foster services for thousands of children in long-term care.

Are children in the Texas child welfare system safe?

Jack found that “rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm,” that child-on-child abuse in licensed foster care placements is common but not tracked, and that children who rape other children continue to do it as they relocate to new homes.

In one instance, 4-year-old Leiliana Wright, of Grand Prairie, died in April 2016 after having been choked, force-fed, bound in a closet and bruised “from head to toe” for drinking her brother’s juice. Her caseworker assigned to protect her had a caseload of 70, according to The Dallas Morning News.

In November 2016, two court-appointed special masters issued recommendations to fix the problems, though the state objected to all of them. The court rebuked the objections and ordered Texas to implement the recommendations.

A total of 88 bills aimed at addressing issues with the foster system were introduced, with 21 passing, leading to more than 270 changes in language of Texas statutes.

Despite criticism, some measures passed received praise from Children at Risk for improving the system.

The Legislature bolstered resources to youth aging out of the foster care system, providing a career development and education program, a summer internship pilot program, and education vouchers, among other resources.

Read the full story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *