Texas Cps Crisis
The Texas foster care system needs a major reform in order to deal with the growing number of children in state care and the lack of emergency shelters, treatment centers, and foster & adoptive homes. According to Child trends Publication (2019), there are currently 32,150 children in state care. Approved state funding towards improving conditions of shelters and residential centers to meet the needs of immediate placement and special needs children. Current regulations against gay couples adopting must change to increase permanent homes and significantly decrease time children spend in foster care. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services would need to implement effective strategies. The system is in the legislative fight for public funding and privatization, but a solution needs to be implemented for the welfare of Texas foster youth.
In 2010, Governor Rick Perry issued fourteen recommendations to improve CPS with small funding to combat the crisis of the foster care system (texas montly). In December 2015, a Corpus Christi judge said DFPS’ foster care system violated the 14th Amendment. Texas spends less than half the average of what other states spend on foster care. There are not enough CPS caseworkers to cover that many kids which leaves them vulnerable. Texas legislature did approve emergency funding in 2016 to address the high turnover rate and low pay (Fogel, 2017).
In 2016, Child protective caseworkers received a significant pay raise of 12,000 per year in order to deal with the high turnover crisis and backlogs of unseen children (Garrett, 2016). The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is an agency that is overseen by the Health and Human Commission. Foster care redesign means a System overhaul launched in 2010 and Foster care redesign was meant to use financial incentives to recruit more foster homes and build more treatment centers. (Dallas news/TX foster care crisis 2016).
In 2018 a federal judge ordered that state to make improvements to the foster care system and lawmakers passed legislation to privatize case management towards non-profit organizations. Privatization is a pilot program to improve child welfare service as Child Protective employees were overworked and to improve child placements. The program was tested in El Paso area and if successful will decide privatization will continue. Since child safety is top priority, there is concern that the program will not be supervised adequately due to third party subcontracted agreements. (Mekelburg, 2018).
The number of children going into foster care has risen about 50% since 1986 and those with medical, physical and mental complications compromise most of the children in foster care. Many foster parents are unskilled to deal with the struggles of caring for special needs children and about 40% stop fostering in the first year. (Barton, 1999) Foster parents do not receive sufficient funding, Texas only pays caregivers about 80% of cost of living for foster children which decreases recruiting efforts (Mann, 2017). According to the 2019 Child trends Publication, the average time children spend in state care is around 17 months. About 38% have had one foster home, 28% have had two, 14% have had around three and the other 20% had four or more different placements.
The number of youths who aged out of foster care were 1164 with another 1697 at risk of aging out. About 40% go into welfare system or end up in prison, 49% become employed and 60% gave birth a few years after aging out of care. Of the 85% of children who have other sibling in care, only 25% are placed in the same foster home. . Foster care children are educationally and developmentally behind and only about 54% finish high school. (Barton, 1999) About 80 % of foster care children have one chronic conditions and another 25 % have three or more (rees jones center for FC excellence). These numbers are a clear indication of the many factors that negatively impact youth and major improvements are still needed.
The lack of residential treatment centers for children with special behavioral, psychological or medical needs has CPS caseworkers with no placement options. This crisis has many children sleeping in CPS offices for more than one night. One example of how redesign has failed in Texas mostly due to low funding was in 2016 when CPS had to remove children from two “residential treatment centers” run by Children’s Hope in Lubbock and Levelland. Child Protective Services grew concerned with strong urine smells, broken toilets and children inflicting harm on each other at Children’s Hope Center.
The terrible and squalid conditions that children were enduring in these long-term care centers left CPS struggling to find placement for 86 high-needs children. The department spent 1.3 billion for an emergency contractor on relocation efforts. An 11 year who had been moved eight times in three years ended up in a psychiatric hospital and back on psychotropic medicines. Children were placed hundreds of miles away to a facility in San Antonio TX. Due to the emotional and psychological effects, children with behavioral and developmental delays struggled for days to deal with the traumatic change. (Dallas news/TX foster care crisis 2016).
Legislators look for low fund solutions to fix the safety and wellbeing of thousands of children. New York Children’s rights group filled a federal lawsuit against Texas due to violations of children‘s 14th Amendment rights. Youth S.A suffered the consequences entering a broken foster care system at the age of 5. Just four months into care she was sexually abused in the foster home and never interviewed by CPS about her allegations. She moved about 45 times and attended 16 schools during her 13 years of state care. She began to display disturbing behavior and hospitalized due to attempts to hurt herself. She was unable to be adopted as changing caseworkers did not have her paperwork in order.
She aged out of care in 2014 and attempted suicide two months after because she had nowhere to go and was unprepared for adulthood. Children are abused and neglected even while they are in state care and as a 2010 report indicated that foster care was doing “more harm to our children than good”. This case clearly reflects the forgotten children, lack of resources to recruit foster parents and shortcoming in foster care system. (Man, 2017)
CPS social worker high turnover rates mean inexperienced workers with high caseloads assessing child safety. For example, 2 year old Colten Turner from Austin TX who died from physical abuse in 2014. Child abuse reports had been received due to concerns of Colton’s injuries on mothers Facebook page. Her boyfriend Micheal Brandt Turner led police to the toddler’s gravesite who had died from neglect. CPS cases involving Turner lost track of child’s whereabouts from June to Dec 2013 because of changing caseworkers and lack of effort to locate the family. Josh Brodesky published the CPS failure was due to “staff turnover, high caseloads, inexperienced workers and poor case management”.
The mother and boyfriend were sentenced and the 3 cps workers who failed to protect this child were fired. (Brodesky, 2014). CPS investigator Diana Cortinaz failed in initiating a joint investigations with law enforcement, request photos for evidence of injuries and did not see child after March 2014 despite additional abuse reports. CPS received at total of 6 reports of neglect within a two year period but failed to actively find this child. CPS Supervisor Lia De Leon failed to follow policy to handle case properly and “negligent in her duties and has not ensured child safety” (Stateman.com/Ball, 2015). Colton Turner’s life could have been saved if the state had a functional CPS agency with less turnover and manageable caseloads.
Child welfare advocates oppose the privatizing of foster care to a “community based care” that legislature and Health and Human Services supported in 2017. There is concern that privatizing will lead to more children suffering the consequences of privatization. High caseloads and extensive paperwork had left social workers visiting children only 26% of the time. Child protective services had to tolerate deplorable conditions of centers due to lack of foster homes. One “therapeutic camp that had been licensed in Texas for 22 years housed boys who cooked their own meals, boiled their own water and used outhouses in unsanitary conditions. Social workers who not seen these children in over a year. This proves that the lack of supervision from state can only worsen with the indirect contact of foster care in privatization (Vine, 2019).
The question of whether foster care is in the child’s best interest can be analyzed in short film by Nathaniel Matanick. It provides insight to of the cycle of an abused child and why some children may fear foster care. It accurately describes what a child’s life can be in state care and the constant emotional effects on a child. Children must learn to adapt to new rules, home environment, a new school and new parents.
This child is not only removed from her abusive home environment, she is also separated from her baby brother. Since she plays the role of the mother because her mother is always drunk, she is extremely attached to him. It is difficult for children to be placed in the same foster home with siblings or within proximity to parents and relatives. Being removed from her home not only lead to emotional distress but also caused disruptive behavioral issues. This child endures the trauma of instability because she continues to be moved from home to home. She is eventually reunited with her baby brother when he is placed in the same foster home. This is the best example of how children experience a broken foster care system and why it needs to be reformed.
Texas is a very republican state that due to religious faith, oppose having children placed in a gay couple foster and adoptive homes. A Texas gay couple who are both professors at A&M were are met with discrimination when inquiring about becoming foster parents. Even if they were suited and good candidates, they were denied fostering because “they didn’t mirror the Holy family. (Texas Tribune- In lawsuit, Texas couple claims they were) This case demonstrates that even today same sex marriages and civil unions are strongly opposed. Same sex marriages often face great social challenges and support from those with conservative views and strong religious beliefs.
Current Texas law permits a heterosexual couple adopt is the only state to ban gay foster parents. A gay person can adopt and be a foster parent but state law does not allow a gay couple to adopt. (Texasmontly) Faith based adoption agencies can reject parents based on religious grounds according the 3859 house bill. Texas Title V state funding is used by CPS to work with faith based communities in finding homes who share religious faith. House Bill 3859 protects religious liberty of child welfare organizations and prohibits grant refusal because of religious beliefs. Prior to this bill, service providers were being required to abandon their beliefs including that marriage is between man and woman in order to receive such funding. (Attorney General Paxton)
Compare and Contrast
Texas spends less, ranks 46th compared to other states expenditures which in turn has less state workers that has earned the reputation of “low service, low tax”. (Tex Gov., 2016). There is lack of foster homes and high turnover rates for CPS caseworkers. Recently, legislators approved 150 million dollars for CPS new hires and a 12,000 raise to current employees. This amount is low compared to the 800 million dollars allocated for border security. Legislators look for low spending solutions especially with tight budget years (Mann, 2017).
Children who come into care due to abuse and are needing assessment of short and long term impacts. They are often missing their medications or durable medical equipment in their transition from home to foster care. Texas lacks improving child safety because of barriers in adequate health delivery and unmet healthcare needs. This causes a number of life-long effects in children’s health due to lack of monitoring and transitioning children in and out of foster care. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Texas only meets one of the 24 health supervision standards. (Foster Care excellence)
In comparison, California foster care system has many flaws in relation to communication of vital health information. A study conducted in 14 counties between social workers, foster parents and physicians regarding and health management demonstrate a lack of coordination, barriers in communication and inadequate health services. There is a shortage of providers that accept Medicaid for health services needed by children with emotional or behavioral problems. Children will rarely receive psychological evaluations or the needed therapy services. Frequent caseworker changes does not allow for updated medical records. There isn’t a compliance with periodic screening diagnosis with the 30 day requirement. Caseworkers are unable to obtain valuable medical history and records and provide foster parents with little to no information. The lack of records often leads to foster children being revaccinated for school entry. An attempt to use a medical passport has been unsuccessful in four counties (Jordan, at all 2011).
In contrast, Florida is the only state that in 1999 outsourced the child welfare agency investigations to law enforcement. Initiative towards privatization led to transferring all CPI responsibilities to law enforcement. Sherriff offices have internal Child Protective investigators who receive the same training. Other seven states have a similar approach for child abuse investigations in coordinating investigations called the “justice model”. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 goal was or safety, permanency and wellbeing of abused children and impacts decision making. The 2006-2007 study conducted in this experimental transfer of responsibilities and effectiveness of law enforcement. Findings concluded that both agencies were adept that child outcomes were lower in law enforcement investigations that in welfare agencies (Klee, 1987).
Solutions & Implementations
Texas could implement a similar solution like the state of Florida that includes outsourcing task to Law Enforcement. They could assist CPS in handling high risk cases that include missing children and families that have fled to avoid CPS investigations. This will also ensure CPS employee safety when responding to cases involving domestic violence or parent s with extensive criminal records. This would enable CPS workers in handling other tasks and assessing child safety. Shared cost of investigations could result in having more funds towards recruiting and finding placement for children.
Increase funding and license requirements for emergency shelters and Residential Treatment centers to meet health and shelter needs of children. This will decrease the need of children sleeping in CPS offices with inadequate accommodations. Clinical Social workers will closely monitor and oversee treatment of children at centers. This will improve the health needs of children who need immediate medical services or therapy to deal with the transition and emotional effects of entering into foster care. Legislation will increase the federal budget expenditures towards foster care reform allowing Texas governor to increase budget for The Texas Department of Family and Protective services. Budget expenditures will be used to hire social workers aimed at ensuring treatment centers are meeting strict regulations. CPS will contract on site nurses, phycologist and therapist for emergency and residential centers.
Overturn or appeal current Texas House Bill 3859 to allow same sex couples to adopt. The 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court case ruled same sex marriage as a “fundamental right” and made it legal in all 50 states. However, it failed to provide the LGBT community protection from discriminations in employment and housing (Haule, 2016). Although same sex marriages are now legal, the right to adopt without discrimination is still an issue in Texas. Adoption caseworkers can advocate, lobby and petition for law changes supporting the LGBT community during Legislative sessions. Making the LGBT community a protected class would eliminate the issues equality and discrimination (Haule, 2016). Once current law changes, The Department of Family and Protective Services would need to restructure current policies for same sex marriage adoptions. This would lead to higher number of qualified individuals eligible to adopt and less children in foster care.
The Texas foster care system has numerous flaws that will take several years to correct and improve. However many of the recurring issues of low funding, low pay ,high turnover and lack of resources prevent the agency from making a major impact on change. Changes to add the LBGT Community as a protected class and over turn House Bill 3859 will a challenge and may take several years to resolve.
In 2018, the 85th Texas Legislature made changes strengthened Department of Family & Protective Services ability to ensure client safety, improve long-term outcomes and retain high-quality caseworkers. With House Bill 5, DFPS became an independent agency that reports directly to the Texas Governor. In Senate Bill 11, agency was directed to expand community based care. A contractor is responsible for finding homes and providing services to foster children. On Feb 2018, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act that restructures Title IV-E services to reduce entry into foster care and increase health services. This act includes maintenance payments to non-foster homes, exceed number of children in foster homes to allow for sibling placement or pregnant or parenting youth to remain with their child. Implementations will suffer a two year delay as there are not enough Qualified Residential treatment programs or providers. (DPS intranet)
These solutions will not only to address lack of foster homes and placement options but to reduce time in foster care and decrease the number children aging out of care. Texas needs to promote increase of foster homes, shelters, and treatment centers homes so that children better quality of care and outcomes. Texas must propose a higher expenditure budget towards foster care reform and change current laws. Yearly raises would support employee retention of tenured experienced staff and also serve to sustain new hires on board. This will enable the state to create a functional CPS agency that has less turnover, experienced workers and better case management.