Foster Care in Texas: A Broken System, Without Much Hope for Improvement

Categories: Cover Story

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Thousands of Texas foster children are subject to "immeasurable and permanent harm and are deprived of the opportunity for a safe children," according to a class-action lawsuit filed by a New York-based advocacy group against Governor Rick Perry and state child welfare officials.

Filed in March by Children's Rights, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of approximately 12,000 kids in the Department of Family and Protective Services' Permament Managing Conservatorship program. Of course, the suit doesn't say anything that state officials haven't said for years -- namely, that foster kids are separated from siblings, bounced throughout substandard facilities across the state, and given little chance of finding a permanent home. Even Perry's Adoption Review Committee recently noted that the state system often does more harm than good.

But DFPS and others say the lawsuit couldn't come at a worse time; that, for the first time in memory, stakeholders in the foster system have worked together to produce a redesign that addresses problems that allowed children to languish for far too long.

Yet, looking at the recommendations, proffered by a highly touted "Public Private Partnership," it's difficult to tell how the changes -- namely, adjustments to contracting and payment procedures -- will produce the significant improvements officials have been calling for for years. And it's also unclear exactly how the lawsuit itself will produce sweeping reform; while Children's Rights' suit has brought more attention to the state's troubled system, it does little in the way of bringing bold new ideas to the table.

Meanwhile, thousands of kids are stuck in a system that offers little chance of escape. (As the lawsuit notes, roughly 500 children have been in foster care for ten years.) These children have been ripped out of supposedly abusive or neglectful environments, only to be placed in potentially similar situations by the state. Such a foster system could not exist in a state government that sincerely cares about protecting its most vulnerable population. As one unidentified state judge said in an oft-cited quote, referring to kids languishing in PMC: "These are the children that even God has forgotten."

This week's cover story examines the lawsuit, the foster system's history, the planned redesign, and what some kids who've aged out of the system think of it all.

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2 comments
J. Wright
J. Wright

The time is now for Texas to review foster children's placements and return children to their families.

When Texas "fails" foster children, children are abused, neglected, and killed in foster care.

Parents cannot abuse children yet the state allows, and overlooks the abuse of children in foster care.

Take the time now to rectify prior errors in judgment in removing of children from their homes.

Judges need to start asking questions instead of "rubber stamping" warrants to remove children from their homes.  Removing children from their homes and placing the child at increased danger is insanity.

Judges, "How about asking for reasonable suspicion?"  How about some common sense?  To reduce abuse, reduce the number of children in state foster care.  Read the reports Craig has written about.  Texas finds Texas is failing foster children! Who is going to stop the state from abusing children?

jholderbaum
jholderbaum

Trying to improve the foster care system?  How many more decades of this travesty do we have to endure?  Child protection isn't working.  Foster care on a mass scale is a mass disaster.  The system is a failure and has been since its inception.  For all our good intentions, for the few kids we have saved, we have destroyed many more lives and families.  Children are raped and murdered in the custody of the state.  We can't fix that.  Children are aging out into homelessness and prison.  We try to throw a band aid on it after the fact.  We can't be in every foster home, every minute of the day.  We need to do better than this.  The states have become the abusers.  We are putting children at risk in the homes of violent foster and adoptive parents.   We are gambling with their lives.  When will people wake up and realize that we didn't end child abuse, we only made it that much worse?  We need to end child protection as we know it and start over with a system that focuses on helping families build better lives for themselves whenever possible and rescuing battered children and orphans.  We need to return to letting law enforcement, with proper training, investigate the crime of child abuse.  We need to accept the fact that while we cannot prevent every homicide in the world, we most certainly should not be adding to those statistics with a system that consistently fails to protect.  Instead of snatching every child we can on the basis of accusation backed up by suspicion we need to focus on real cases of criminal child abuse and let law enforcement handle it and get rid of this miserable system that has the audacity to call itself child protection.  Let's end it!

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