New Report on Ways to Save Lives in Texas Foster Care

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Peter Clark, pclark@txchildren.org, 512.473.2274

New Report on Ways to Save Lives in Texas Foster Care

As House Holds Hearing on Foster Care Redesign, State Should Pause Privatization, Set Standards for Screening Foster Parents, & Boost CPS Workforce

AUSTIN – Coinciding with the House Human Services Committee hearing on Foster Care Redesign, today Texans Care for Children released a report entitled "Safeguarding Children in Texas Foster Care,” outlining several policy recommendations to keep children safe in the state's foster care system. The report follows a spike in child fatalities, with 10 children dying in foster care in 2013 compared to two the prior fiscal year.

"The state needs to hit the pause button on Foster Care Redesign. We can’t expand privatization when standards aren’t in place to keep kids safe and monitor contractors,” said Ashley Harris, Child Welfare Policy Associate for Texans Care for Children and author of the report. "When the state removes children from their parents for safety reasons, we can't hand them off to foster families that will compromise their safety. Fortunately, there are a number of steps the state can take to train foster parents,weed out the dangerous ones, and keep kids safe."

The report contains 13 recommendations for improving the training, screening, assessing, and monitoring of foster care parents and homes. Today 90 percent of children in foster care are placed in settings managed by private providers. Examples of recommendations in the report include:

  • Increase the required number of foster parent training hours from the current minimum of eight hours;
  • Require an updated foster home screening on an annual basis;
  • Establish statewide standards for the home study evaluations carried out by private child-placing agencies;
  • Investigate reports of abuse in foster care homes just as thoroughly as it investigates other reports of abuse; and
  • Provide the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) agency with the funding it needs to establish safe caseloads for its staff.

Three of the report’s other recommendations are included in the measures proposed earlier this month by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council.

In 2013, there were roughly 32 children for every conservatorship caseworker—nearly double the recommended average.

Laquinton Wagner, age 25, spent most of his life in the foster care system. Drawing on his personal experience, Wagner said, "If caseworkers are overwhelmed, they don't have time to see kids on their caseload and spend quality time with them. If caseworkers don't spend enough time getting to know a youth and building trust, a young person will not be comfortable talking about possible abuse that may be happening in their placement."

"When each endangered child is competing with 31 other kids for the attention of a single, overloaded caseworker, corners get cut, red flags are overlooked, and lives are put in danger," said Harris, a former CPS caseworker.

The report is available here.

County-level data about child abuse and neglect is available here: www.dfps.state.tx.us/About_DFPS/Data_Books_and_Annual_Reports/2013/county_charts.asp.

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Texans Care for Children has led policy advances for Texas children for nearly 30 years. The nonpartisan nonprofit organization serves as a voice for children, a source on children and a network for people who put kids first. Through policy analysis, statewide coalitions, grassroots campaigns and research, Texans Care for Children improves conditions for children in the areas of health, mental health, early opportunities, child protection and juvenile justice.