In the News: Foster Care Deaths Prompt Legislative Changes

San Antonio Express-News - June 15, 2015
by Nicole Cobler

Texas caseworkers have almost double the number of cases than the national recommendation. Each Texas CPS caseworker manages an average of 28 cases at any given time, according to Ashley Harris, child welfare policy associate for the advocacy group Texans Care for Children.

"If there are still too many children and families they have to manage at one time, none of these improvements will be meaningful,” Harris said.

However, lawmakers made strides when it came to standardizing the foster care system this session.

One bill authored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would mandate trauma screenings no later than 45 days after a child is removed from his or her home by CPS. The bill has already been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Harris said the new law would make it easier to place children appropriately the first time around and would "ensure that all children coming into the foster care system receive comprehensive evaluations.”

Lawmakers also approved a bill that would increase the amount of training, to 35 hours, that a foster parent must have before being verified as a foster or adoptive home. The bill still requires Abbott’s approval.

The Department of Family and Protective Services requires at least 16 hours of training, with little direction for private agencies overseeing the training. The low numbers of hours of training for foster parents were pointed out when reviewing cases of children who died in care.

"It’s unfortunate it took tragedy to make policymakers see there needs to be change,” Harris said.

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