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House Human Services Committee Discusses Foster Care and Adoption, June 12, 2016

On Tuesday, July 12th, 2016, the House Committee on Human Services met to take up its interim charge to eliminate child abuse within the foster care system, increase the number of foster families, and improve adoption policies.

At the hearing, the Department of Family and Protective Services’ new commissioner, Hank Whitman, explained his ten-point plan for CPS. The plan includes administrative remedies such as changes in regional leadership, as well as new initiatives such as strengthening faith communities’ participation in the child welfare system. The Commissioner also stated that battling human trafficking will be one of the agency’s top priorities.

The Hon. Scott McCown, Director of the Children’s Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, testified that limiting caseload size is the core reform needed, but that new caseworkers and higher salaries to decrease job turnover rates would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. McCown said that private foster care providers are advising legislators that increasing the number of foster care facilities would require increasing reimbursement rates, which also have a cost to the state in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He also pointed out that performance-based contracting in human services skews decisions about what is right for the child. Watch McCown’s testimony here.

Low case worker salaries and foster care reimbursement rates have put Texas’ foster care and Child Protective Service system in crisis. The consequences of the resulting staffing and housing shortages have been fatal to Texas children. Last December, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system violated the Constitution “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.”

The House Committee on Human Services will issue a written report with recommendations to the upcoming 85th Legislature this fall. 

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