San Antonio Express-News / Houston Chronicle - June 19, 2015
by Brian M. Rosenthal
Texas officials are expanding a controversial overhaul of the state’s foster-care system, but not before acknowledging the initial rollout plan was flawed.
Lawmakers approved legislation in the session that ended this month to authorize the privatization plan known as "foster-care redesign” in a third part of the state under additional oversight and funding.
The extra funding is significant because lawmakers said when they approved the overhaul in 2011 that it would accomplish better results with the same amount of money. Instead, the state dedicated $1,200 more per child in the program.
The moves came 10 months after the state put the redesign on hold when the contractor overseeing the launch of the program in West Texas and North Texas abruptly pulled out amid financial issues.
Child advocates, who have been critical of the redesign, praised the new funding and oversight, but said the Legislature still was moving too fast on the overhaul.
"I’m glad to see policymakers recognized that you can’t support kids without spending money, but we would have preferred more protections and more planning before more expansion,” said Ashley Harris, a former state Child Protective Services caseworker now with the group Texans Care for Children. "A lot of questions haven’t been answered and we haven’t seen enough data to know if this is ultimately best for kids.”