When Child Protective Services (CPS) gets a call that a child may be in an unsafe situation, the best outcome is to find a way to keep that child safely with her family. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible, and sometimes children must be removed from their families to keep them safe. If children enter foster care, Texas leaders must make sure that kids’ lives get better, not worse. In foster care, children should not only be safe but also thrive and heal after experiencing abuse, neglect, and the trauma of removal from their families.
Texas has made real progress over the last two years in reforming child welfare policies and CPS. Now, a convergence of factors present Texas with meaningful opportunities to build on this progress during the 2019 legislative session. This brief begins by summarizing the legal and federal policy developments that should inform the 2019 session:
Court rulings on the foster care lawsuit, and
The new federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
Then, this brief explores the following foster care policy issues that will need to be addressed in the 2019 session in light of court rulings, the FFPSA, or key actions that the Legislature and state agencies took over the last two years:
Keeping families safely together and preventing entries into foster care, including policies to address parental substance use as well as pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.
Children's safety in foster care, with a focus on policies related to caseloads, standards for and oversight of licensed foster homes and facilities, and the state's data systems;
Children's health and well-being in foster care, particularly policies related to kinship care, the number and kind of placements available in foster care (known as the "placement array"), and support for youth aging out of care.
This brief includes legislative recommendations for each of those policy areas.