Ken Paxton Challenges Expert Recommendations on Fixing Texas’ Foster Care System

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 23, 2016 11:16 am,

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Almost a year ago, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack found the Texas foster care system was unconstitutional and broken. She appointed two experts – known as special masters – to come up with recommendations for overhauling the system – and they did, suggesting things like cutting back on the caseloads of child welfare workers and hiring more staff to pick up the slack.

The official response from Texas came this week, and Attorney General Ken Paxton said: Thanks, but no thanks.

In a court filing, he challenged all of the special masters’ recommendations. Miriam Nisenbaum, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chaptersays the state’s reaction isn’t surprising but it’s disappointing. 

“No one, I think, expects this to happen overnight but beginning to work on some of the points made by the special masters in a significant and meaningful way would be a good start,” she says. 

Nisenbaum says it’s good to see the governor, lieutenant governor, and house speaker all prioritize changes to the child welfare system, but it’s time for officials to act.

“If Texas truly cares about the children in the foster care and the CPS system we must take concrete and visible action to help those children,” she says. “And delaying that does nothing to keep those children out of harm’s way.”

And it turns out the head of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services is tired of waiting, too. At the request of lawmakers – Hank Whitman put together a plan meant to lift the child welfare agency out of crisis mode.

Robert Garett with the Dallas Morning News says Whitman waited as long as he could for state legislators to get on the same page.

“And they did not do so…so he went ahead and put his request forward to the governor and the legislative budget board,” Garett says. 

The House was receptive to Whitman’s request for 800 new employees to help with turnover, but was wary of raises. The Senate, on the other hand was more on board with pay raises for caseworkers – but only wanted Whitman to hire about 130 new employees. 

“So he couldn’t get a definitive consensus so I think he just went ahead because he’s trying to do these things by December 1 which as you know it’s just days way,” Garett says. 

It turns out bypassing the House and Senate might be a winning strategy.

“Well, Governor Abbott after earlier in the year being resistant to pay raises for CPS workers is all on board with it now and is supporting Whitman strongly, so you have a situation where at least in one corner of this triangle, he’s all good, and now he’s pretty good in both the other corners of the triangle, but he’s not there,” Garett says. “So there still could be some compromise and this group could ask him to resubmit something a little scaled back or a little difference but for now he’s banking the crisis atmosphere will be enough to get these 10 legislators on the budget board to back him.” 

The budget board has the authority to approve and fund Whitman’s request without jumping through any other legislative hoops.

Can you imagine your childhood without crayons? Scrawling out drawings of your family, or teachers, or maybe the dog you hope your parents will get you.

Well, kids held at the immigration detention center in Karnes City have been banned from using crayons in the center’s visitation room. That’s according to pro bono lawyers and groups like RAICES working with detained families.

Geo Group, the private prison contractor that operates the center, says kids have access to crayons and other supplies elsewhere in the facility