Following Foster Care Deaths & Abuse, Monday Hearing on Key Safety Bill

For Immediate Release

AUSTIN – After a year of attention on tragic child deaths and abuse with the very foster families selected to keep Texas children safe, on Monday, March 9 the Texas House Committee on Human Services will hold a hearing on legislation to take a key step towards protecting and supporting children in foster care. House Bill 781, by Representative Cindy Burkett, would establish basic standards for the screening and training of foster parents.

"After a year of listening to horror stories and studying the issue, now is the time for legislators to take action to keep children safe,” said Ashley Harris, Child Protection Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children. "Along with providing funding to reduce caseloads for overworked CPS staff, this legislation represents one of the most important steps the Legislature can take to make sure these vulnerable children are placed in safe, supportive homes.”

One provision of the bill would require prospective foster parents to participate in at least 35 hours of pre-service training. The state currently requires 35 hours for individuals the state is directly trying to recruit, but allows private contractors to provide as little as 16 hours of training.

In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, 13 kids in the custody of CPS died as a result of abuse and neglect, compared to two child deaths in fiscal year 2012. The Legislature held a number of high-profile hearings throughout 2014 on child fatalities, abuse, and neglect in foster care as well as other challenges at CPS.

The need to review and strengthen foster care screening and training was included in the interim report for the House Select Committee on Child Protection as well as the Texans Care for Children report, "Safeguarding Children in Texas Foster Care,” published in 2014.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm in room E2.030 of the Texas Capitol.