Senate Takes on Foster Care Deaths & Abuse, Passing Foster Parent Training & Screening Bill

May 26, 2015
Peter Clark, 512-417-9262

Senate Takes on Foster Care Deaths & Abuse, Passing Foster Parent Training & Screening Bill

AUSTIN – In response to numerous reports of child deaths and abuse in foster care, today the Texas Senate passed House Bill 781 to establish basic statewide standards for the screening and training of foster parents. Texans Care for Children, a multi-issue non-profit children’s policy organization, praised the Senate and the bill authors, Rep. Cindy Burkett and Sen. Charles Perry, for their work on the bill.

"We appreciate all the legislators who listened to the stories of children who died or faced abuse with the very families the state selected to keep them safe,” said Ashley Harris, Child Protection Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children. "This legislation will ensure more of the foster parents in this state are prepared for the sacred responsibility of caring for abused and neglected children. Children in foster care will now be more likely to stay safe, recover from their trauma, and lead happy, healthy lives.”

One provision of HB 781 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. Sufficient training is important not just for preparing foster parents but for identifying which prospective foster parents are up for the job.

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.

HB 781 must still be approved by the Governor. The Governor recently signed another foster care bill, SB 125, improving trauma assessments for children in foster care.