News Roundup: Ken Paxton Makes Good On His Threat To Appeal Foster Care Ruling

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 24, 2018 1:58 pm

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

Texas is fighting a judge’s final order in a nearly seven-year-long class action lawsuit that mandates sweeping changes to the state’s foster care system.

In the decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack at the end of last week she wrote, “Two years and one legislative session later, the foster care system of Texas remains broken.” Jack added that’s still the case, even after state lawmakers and officials took “admirable” steps to improve care for abused and neglected children.

As he promised to do, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately appealed the final order and a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay. Child advocates in the state say this isn’t a surprising move

“But we do wish the state would go ahead and fully cooperate with the court order,” says Lee Nichols, communications director for the child welfare group, TexProtects. He says foster children can’t keep waiting on litigation to play out.

“Childhoods are short – anybody who is a parent knows this – so any delay in fixing the system greatly concerns us,” Nichols says.

Kate Murphy, the senior child welfare policy associate with the advocacy group, Texans Care for Children, says just because Judge Jack’s order is temporarily on hold doesn’t mean Texas can’t keep working to improve foster care.

“So my hope as an advocate is that seeing what has come down in this order and what the state is going to be expected to do if they lose the appeal, that the state will start taking some steps and proactively be working toward implementing and including the policies that are really good for kids into the work they’re already doing,” Murphy says.

Some of the changes Jack ordered included better-distributed foster homes and treatment center beds throughout the state, and moving sexually aggressive foster kids into “single-child placements.”

Officials say a Texas man is among the five people who died after an explosion ripped through an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig. 35-year-old Josh Ray was from Fort Worth.

Houston-based Patterson-UTI Energy owns the rig that exploded Monday. Company President and CEO Andy Hendricks pledged a full investigation with local authorities and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

“We can’t speculate and we won’t speculate on the investigation at this point. But we will work with OSHA and we have management teams working with OSHA today to begin the investigation because we want to learn from this,” Hendricks said.

The Associated Press says an initial report into the deadly explosion indicates that an uncontrolled release of gas caught fire.

Nearly 80 percent of Texas is experiencing anywhere from abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions, according to recent data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Just three months ago, less than 20 percent of the state was facing this range of dry conditions.

You can find more on drought conditions from the Texas Tribune, here.