Texas Standard spoke with Kaysie Taccetta of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services about the new “community-based model” for foster care in the state. One service provider in north Texas is already working within the model. The Standard paid the group a visit. Listen to that part of the story below.
On September 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number of those were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option.
In December of 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional, and deemed it “broken.”
Fast forward to May of 2017 when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system.
“I think the judge should be pleased that Texas did our constitutional and legal duty on our own to implement landmark legislation that will completely transform the system in ways that make it better and the case should be dismissed,” Abbott said.
Spoiler alert: the case hasn’t yet been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011.
It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term model is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one -size fits all program.
Kaysie Taccetta is director of conservatorship services with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She has been working on foster care redesign, now called the community-based model, for the state.
Taccetta says the goal of the new model is to bring resources closer to the communities they serve.
“[We are ] moving from a statewide foster care model to one that is community-based, that can take advantages of the strengths of each particular community in Texas, since it’s so big, build off of those strengths and have a real, targeted local approach to providing foster care and services,” Taccetta says.
Taccetta says the community focus extends to where foster children are placed within the state.
“One of the things that our commissioner at the time was really looking to affect was the fact that we have so many children that are placed in other parts of the state than where they are removed from,” she says.
Not all foster placements are created equal, Taccetta says.
“It’s not necessarily about having, just, open beds or open homes. It’s having the right type of services that support those homes, too,” she says. “We were looking for a model that would support making sure communities had the right services in place, so that when children are removed from their homes, we can keep them in the same school, keep them placed with their siblings, with their friends, and all their positive support systems while we work with their families to try to reunify them.”
Community-focused programs, and the opportunity to privatize services are also intended to improve the distribution of foster care providers around the state. Providers include child-placement agencies, residential treatment centers that serve special needs children and facilities that function like emergency shelters
“We would let these large, statewide procurements and open enrollment processes, but there wasn’t a set, designated geographic area,” she says. “So we ended up having places in the state where there are pockets of providers, and then in other parts of the state we don’t have as many foster care providers.”
Community-based contractors that manage a range of services are seen as a way to reduce the complexity and bureaucracy of the existing state system.
“I think it takes the state out of having to manage…over 300 contracts, which is what we’re doing now, and allows us to focus in on contracting with what we’re calling ‘single source continuum contractors,’” Taccetta says. “That contractor’s responsible for developing the foster care system and the foster care network of services that best meets the needs of children from their area.”
Taccetta says the cost of moving to the community-based model should be measured in terms of opportunities to add new services, and the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of providers’ programs.
“There are some things that we are purchasing in foster care redesign or community-based care that we hadn’t purchased before,” she says. “The legislature was really good to us in providing resources, but then another major change with community-based care is we moved to performance-based contracting. We outline the outcomes that we expect for children and families served by this contractor within the community, so we’re holding them accountable for reaching those outcomes.”
The state is currently divided into 11 foster care service regions. With redesign, that number would grow to 17, if the redesign model were to be deployed statewide.
Community-based care in practice