A six year-old class action lawsuit over the system of foster care in Texas may be reaching a climax. It’s the case in which a federal judge found Texas’ foster care system to be so dangerous to foster kids as to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack has called the system that cares for some 10,700 kids “broken.” Now, court special masters are making recommendations that are sure to attract pushback from the State of Texas, which has been aggressively privatizing the foster care system.
Garrett says private agencies took over recruiting foster parents in Texas some 25 years ago, and the state has continued to privatize the system since then. In the 2000s, a number of children died in foster care, and what Garrett calls “bad operators” were exposed.
“There has been a push for seven or eight years now by the state to further privatize [foster care] as the way to solve it,” Garrett says. “by putting one company in charge in a region.”
The deaths and abuses of children in the system resulted in the 2011 case, which is now close to an end, as court-appointed special masters are set to release a roadmap for foster care reform, that requires the state to find more foster parents. The court says the state also needs to hire more case workers, known as conservatorship workers, who interact with foster children directly, and provide information to the court. The court also wants the state to create an electronic case file for each foster child.
Garrett says the distribution of families available to take on foster children in Texas not even. Some areas have a surplus of families, while others have too few.
He says the latest foster care bill passed by the legislature amounts to “privatization on steroids,” The legislation calls for a community-based care model, with a lead agency managing foster care services in a large region, and hiring contractors and subcontractors to handle local cases.
Garrett says Child Protective Services, or CPS, the state agency charged with implementing the legislature’s plan, isn’t in sync with the court’s special masters and their plan.
“The CPS is basically saying ‘we’re improving the system on our own, thank you, and we don’t need a federal judge to monitor us.’ But it’s not clear whether the state is going to be able to win at the fifth circuit, and get rid of this judge looming over everything it does in child welfare for the next few years,” Garrett says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.