Reflections on the Texas Observer's 'Fostering Neglect' Article

The Texas Observer recently published a telling account of the state’s foster care system from the perspective of a young person raised by the state of Texas for over 17 years. The article provides a moving, disturbing insight into the state’s inadequate policies and the impact on vulnerable children in the system, like Crystal Bentley:

"It was just a constant transition from foster home to foster home,”

"Sometimes you’re with people for a month, for three months, six months. It depends.”

"I was raped repeatedly by foster brothers and sisters because [they knew], ‘Oh, that’s her history. She’s been molested, so we can get away with saying she’s lying because of what happened to her before.’”

"I don’t know how many times I’ve been raped by someone, and they’ve gotten away with it,”

To put it another way:

"[W]hen Texas removes children from their homes because of maltreatment, life should get better, not worse….Life should, at the very least, continue.”

So how do we do that?

As we told the Texas Observer and wrote on our blog, our state must do more to ensure appropriate caseloads and workforce supports for CPS staff to guarantee adequate oversight and monitoring of children in foster homes. Under the best-case scenario with current funding, foster care caseworkers will have 28 kids to monitor, compared to the national recommendation of 17.

Despite recent statements by agency leaders and policymakers to the contrary, CPS is struggling to meet growing caseload demands. The article reveals that DFPS even admits that it’s struggling to meet caseload demands.

"State officials say the foster care system already has a $20 million deficit for 2014 because legislators didn’t budget for growth. They say 2015 will be even worse.”

CPS caseworkers are overloaded and cannot ensure quality work—endangering children and delaying permanency for our most vulnerable Texans.

"Texas sent a caseworker to check on her [Crystal Bentley] once a month, and when Bentley told that caseworker she had been abused, which happened often, Texas moved her”.

The article also highlights the concerns voiced by our organization and other advocates on continued efforts to expand privatization through Foster Care Redesign—the state’s latest attempt to reform the child welfare system without investing the money needed to really improve children’s lives.

"In other states, privatizing child welfare without more investment has been disastrous.”

Despite the concerns raised and current difficulties in monitoring and holding private providers accountable, as highlighted by Crystal’s story and more recently seen by the rise in child deaths in Texas foster care, DFPS remains steadfast in moving Foster Care Redesign forward.

Our lawmakers should more closely monitor privatization efforts to ensure they are actually best for children and families served by DFPS. As we explained in our recent report, we need to make sure all private contractors can keep kids safe before turning over greater authority. We also need to make sure these efforts are financially viable. If Redesign fails, the financial and human costs would be devastating to the child protection system.

This powerful story by the Texas Observer is a reminder that for many foster youth, foster care is not a place where they can heal, but a place where they experience continued maltreatment, neglect and isolation. While Crystal’s difficult journey to healing has not been easy, she strives each day for improvements that will ensure all children in foster care are safe, loved, and supported for a lifetime.

"Look at me rise above the situation you put me through. You lacked. My parents were inadequate, but this system is clearly inadequate as well. You tried to take me out of an abusive situation, but you put me into another one—a worse one, even worse.”