For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Peter Clark, [email protected], 512.417.9262
AUSTIN – Today Texans Care for Children welcomed Governor Greg Abbott’s call for stronger safety measures at Child Protective Services (CPS) following a number of child deaths in foster care, but expressed concern that the House of Representatives’ budget proposal continues dangerously high caseloads at CPS.
"We welcome the Governor’s efforts, but if state leaders are serious about keeping kids safe after the state removes them from their homes, they can’t force those kids to compete with 27 other children for the attention of an overworked caseworker,” said Ashley Harris, a former CPS caseworker who now serves as the Child Protection Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children. "When caseworkers are forced to rush from home to home, they miss the clues that a child may be in a dangerous foster home.”
Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee approved a two-year state budget that maintains the current conservatorship caseload level of 28 foster children per caseworker. National best practices established by the Child Welfare League of America recommend a maximum caseload of 17 children. The budget proposal will be considered by the full House of Representatives on Tuesday and must eventually be reconciled with the budget the Senate is writing.
In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, 13 kids died as a result of abuse and neglect with the foster families selected for them by the state or its contractors, compared to two child deaths in fiscal year 2012. During legislative hearings last year, a number of former foster youth testified that they were abused in foster care.
"These children have already experienced abuse or neglect and the trauma of removal from their homes,” said Ms. Harris. "They need a caseworker who has the time to look out for them so they can rebuild their lives and avoid dangerous foster homes. We urge the Legislature to provide the funding it takes to keep these vulnerable children safe and put them on a path to a permanent, loving home.”
Another key legislative measure to protect children in foster care, Rep. Cindy Burkett’s HB 781, would establish stronger screening and training standards for foster parents. The bill was left pending in the House Human Services Committee following a hearing on March 9th.