Report Ordered by Legislature Outlines Foster Care Facilities Reform Package

October 18, 2022
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark,

Austin – This month, the Legislature received a report it commissioned regarding recommendations to address persistent problems with foster care facilities in Texas, providing a blueprint for steps that state leaders can pursue during the 2023 legislative session. Last year, the Legislature passed SB 1575 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Tom Oliverson, directing the Children’s Commission arm of the Texas Supreme Court to establish a workgroup to study the use of Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) in foster care and provide the recommendations. The long-anticipated report comes at a time when the state is under fire for the instability, abuse, and neglect experienced by many Texas children in long-term foster care.

“There’s a broad consensus that Texas leaders need to reform our foster care facilities so more children are safe and recovering from trauma rather than going through even more trauma,” said Kate Murphy, Senior Policy Associate for Child Protection at Texans Care for Children. “We commend the Legislature for recognizing this needs to be a priority and commissioning the report. We are optimistic that legislators will move forward with this foster care facilities reform package and kids’ lives will get better as a result. We appreciate all the Workgroup members who worked so hard on this report.” 

Among other recommendations, the report says that more children in foster care should be placed with families, suggesting that children should only be placed in RTCs when absolutely necessary and for no longer than necessary. To reach that goal, the report calls for higher standards for assessing children’s needs to determine if they should be placed in a RTC and for how long, as well as stricter judicial review of the placement plan. The report recommends using a similar process to the one in place for “Qualified Residential Treatment Programs” (QRTPs), a designation for higher quality facilities created under the federal Family First Act.

“The longer that kids are stuck living in a facility instead of staying with a loving family, the harder it is for them to stay safe, heal from their trauma, and just be a kid,” said Ms. Murphy. 

The report also called for state agencies, including the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, to collaboratively assess the gaps in the services that are available to kids who are placed in RTCs because of mental health challenges or other needs.

Additional recommendations in the report include increasing funding to support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI); increasing funding for Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) to identify supportive family connections for children placed in RTCs; expanding the use of peer-support for youth in foster care; and ensuring that children placed in RTCs know the placement is aimed at addressing their needs rather than punishing them.

While the package outlined in the report focuses on foster care care facilities, Ms. Murphy emphasized that additional reforms will be necessary to address other challenges in the foster care system.

“In addition to passing the foster care facilities reform package, it will also be important for the Legislature to take steps to support families so more children can stay safely with their parents rather than entering the foster care system at all,” said Ms. Murphy, who recently delivered budget recommendations to state leaders to address these challenges.