Texas is in the middle of a foster care crisis. More than a dozen children died while in foster care placements in the last several years. Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s leading lawmakers say fixing the foster care system is a top priority during this legislative session.

The issue rose to be a top item for lawmakers, after 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack called the system “broken” and unconstitutional. This series aims to get at the root of the challenges facing foster care in the state. We’re going to pick the system apart piece by piece, looking at groups involved with and affected by the system: foster children, caseworkers and lawmakers.

Former State Rep. Ken Sheets and current Rep. James Frank

Lawmakers Who Have Been Foster Parents Have A Personal Stake In Fixing The System

Their perspective on the foster care system changed when they became part of it. Legislators are pushing to move Texas foster care from a state-run system to an increasingly privatized, local model.

Stephan Hochhaus/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why Parents Also Need Help Navigating The Texas CPS System

Johana Scot first started thinking about parents rights when volunteering for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a child advocacy organization. Her job was to ensure the child protection system met kids’ best interests. Later she opened the nonprofit Parent Guidance Center. Her motto is “If you help a parent, you help a child.”

Working In Texas’ Foster Care System Is Tough, But Rewarding

Texas has taken a step toward fixing the state’s struggling foster care system that a judge ruled unconstitutional in December 2015. The fact that caseworkers were overloaded and leaving the agency in droves – to the tune of about 25 percent of caseworkers a year – was a big reason for that decision. Becky Fogel spoke to two former caseworkers and one current one to understand what it’s actually like to be a caseworker in the Texas Foster Care system.

Richard De Jesus

This San Antonio Family Sees Caring For Foster Kids As A Calling

Despite ongoing problems plaguing the foster care system, caring families are doing their best to make a difference in the lives of kids. It often comes down to reaching out; communicating with a damaged child and meeting him or her at a place they’re able to go. And showing love and patience until it’s time for the child to move on to a new home.

The Only Certainty Is Instability: A Teenager Navigates The ‘Broken’ Texas Foster Care System

After his father was deported, Christian Enriquez entered the Texas Foster Care system. He says he experienced its dysfunction first hand. He bounced from emergency shelters to Residential Treatment Facilities (RTCs), to foster homes, to homelessness. Now he’s finally found a home at LifeWorks, a non-profit organization in Austin that advocates for and provides housing to youth aging out of the foster care system.

What Led To The ‘Broken’ Foster Care System In Texas

Lawmakers, advocates, the court system and state agencies have been taking steps to improve Child Protective Services and foster care. But critics of the system say more will need to be made to ensure the safety of children.  To better understand the challenges ahead, we must first look at how children have fared living within the system.