Texas began a strategic plan to reform the foster care system in 2014, but the overhaul is still in the early stages of rollout. The plan has been moving forward without much fanfare, at a time when Child Protective Services is taking a lot of heat for some high-profile tragedies.
The biggest change is a shift away from investigation efforts – the CPS worker who comes knocking on the door asking questions – to a public heath approach aimed at strengthening families and reducing the number of serious injuries and fatalities.
The plan puts a heavy emphasis on the staggering cost of child abuse and the need to be smarter about resources – to use big data as never before. The man behind the numbers is Waco-based Ray Perryman, CEO of an economic and financial analysis firm. He’s been looking at the argument for the overhaul from an economic standpoint.
In a new report, Perryman says that for every dollar the state puts into the plan to overhaul the foster care system, it would see a return of $3.44. The study was paid for by Our Community Our Kids, which contracts with CPS to provide care in the Fort Worth area through the second phase of the foster care overhaul plan. (The first phase failed due to funding concerns.)
“There have been a lot of studies out there of other foster care reforms – things like trying to keep the kids in the same geographic area so they don’t have to change schools, trying to keep siblings together so they’re not separated,” Perryman says. “We’ve seen the result of those, so we can say ‘What if we achieve those results in Texas?’ We can then run that through this economic system.”
The group looked at what the economic benefits of the overhaul would bring in terms of overtime for CPS caseworkers and reduced healthcare, incarceration and education costs for the state.
Currently, CPS is administered from a central location in Austin, which has contributed to a number of expensive challenges. The best way to lessen costs is to decentralize administration, Perryman says.
“The idea being to interact more carefully with the local caregivers and providers,” he says, “and to help the local families be able to not only be better foster parents, but [to help] the underlying parents themselves get back on their feet to be in a situation where the foster care does not last as long as it might otherwise. … It really pays off – as our studies show – significantly if you go forward with these things.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.