Foster care providers in Texas are facing heightened scrutiny after a new report indicates at least 23 children have died in foster care since 2019. That’s on top of the ongoing problem of children sleeping in state offices because of a lack of space in foster care facilities.
Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau Chief Bob Garrett tells Texas Standard that court-appointed monitors have been evaluating foster-care providers as part of an overhaul of the system ordered last year by U.S. District Judge Janis Jack.
“The monitors that work for the federal judge at the expense of state taxpayers, they are all over this system, really, going out, making unannounced visits, sometimes showing up in the middle of the night to check on these kids. And they they have written a very thorough look that shows that the state of Texas is still not meeting the judge’s standards,” Garrett said.
Garrett says the monitors found child deaths from abuse and neglect were “fairly rare,” though he says Judge Jack would argue “one is too many.”
Another issue has been problem foster-care providers who have closed their businesses after being cited by the state, only to reopen under a new name. Garrett says Jack has homed in on those providers to try to keep them out of the system permanently.
“Judge Jack calls that ‘whack-a-mole,'” Garrett said. “She has really gone after that and, arguably, has eradicated that practice so that the remaining providers are ones who are in it for the long haul and are not, you know, sort of the fly-by-nighters.”
Garrett says the low reimbursement rate from the state is just one of the contributing factors to the poor state of the foster-care system. Larger providers have moved toward housing unaccompanied migrant children instead because the federal government pays more for their care than the state pays to care for foster children.
He says the lawmakers who are paying attention to the issue blame state bureaucracy, and are “clinging” to privatization as the solution.
“Legislators are often pointing fingers, and rarely at themselves,” he said.