News Roundup: Most Texas Children That Flee Foster Care Are Found, But Some Were Trafficked And Exploited

Our daily look at headlines from around the state.

By Becky FogelJune 6, 2019 1:23 pm

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services released a new report this week that finds 1,843 children and youth in the agency’s care were reported as missing in Fiscal Year 2018. DFPS was responsible for over 52,000 kids during that period.

Nearly 86 percent of the children and youth who went missing had been located by August 31, 2018. Of those who were still missing by that date, 64 of the young people had exited DFPS conservatorship. Another 197 were still missing and had been gone an average of 11 weeks and 2 days.

DFPS says it continues to search for any youth or child missing from foster care until the department no longer has legal authority over them.

Blanca Denise Lance, the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Director for DFPS, says kids shared several reasons for leaving foster care, including “anger at the CPS system, dislike of the rules of the placement they were in, a strong desire to be on their own, desire to see family and/or relatives or friends.”

Lance adds the majority of youth go on the run to reunite with family and friends – but a small number do become victims of crimes.

“Youth have reported that sex trafficking occurs and when that happens we are responsible as caregivers to these youth, we work to connect them to the right services to help them address whatever traumas they might have endured in that time,” she says.

Lance points out that the foster care system is often associated with youth being at a higher risk for human trafficking in the future.

“A lot of studies and reports show that linkage,” she says. “But what we’re finding as we’re doing our assessment when youth come back from missing episodes, is that it is a very, very small percentage. … Of the 1,582 children that were recovered, 52 reported victimization.”

Lance says when victimization is reported, DFPS connects the young people to support services. The agency also works collaboratively with law enforcement partners so they can follow up on crimes these young people were victims of.

In terms of the demographics of the children and youth reported as missing, 55 percent were female and 45 percent were male. The race/ethnicity of the kids is also similar to the percentages for all children in DFPS conservatorship: 42 percent of the children and youth who went missing were Hispanic, 28 percent were white, and 25 percent were African American. The living arrangements kids were most often reported missing from include residential treatment centers and emergency shelters.

A business coalition called Texans for Economic Growth is voicing support for the American Dream and Promise Act. It creates a pathway to citizenship for two groups of immigrants in the United States: participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and Temporary Protected Status holders.

The U.S. House passed the bill this week with overwhelming support from Democrats, but the measure faces a dim future in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Stan Marek is chairman and CEO of the MAREK companies, which is part of the coalition. He says immigrants are integral to the state’s workforce.

“We definitely need to get DACA and TPS into a permanent status, that is critical,” Marek says. “But just as critical are getting these 11 million people out of the shadows, out of being exploited, with employers who will pay and match taxes.”

Some Republicans opposing the legislation have denounced it as amnesty that would encourage more illegal immigration.

Sixty percent of Democratic and Dem-leaning voters in Texas want presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke to shift gears and challenge Republican John Cornyn for his Senate seat in 2020.

That’s according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The former El Paso congressman was asked about the poll during an wide-ranging interview with CBS News. O’Rourke said he was grateful for the support he received during his 2018 bid against Sen. Ted Cruz – adding he thinks Texas Democrats just want a senator who reflects their values.

“I’m a known quantity,” O’Rourke said. “I went to every one of those 254 counties, I probably there’s a good chance I met the people who were interviewed or questioned in this poll. I think when they get a chance to meet some of these contenders – like MJ Hegar – they’re going to be very pleased and know that it’s not about a candidate. It’s not about any one person, it’s about that movement that we got to be a part of in Texas and that movement still exists.”

Former congressional candidate, MJ Hegar, is one of a handful of Texas Democrats challenging Cornyn in 2020.