Next Step For Texas’ Foster Care Mess: A Summit Among State Agencies And Plaintiffs

Children in the foster care system continue to sleep in offices, hotels and other temporary quarters.

By Jill Ament & Shelly BrisbinSeptember 15, 2021 2:52 pm,

The federal judge overseeing reforms to Texas’ foster care system now says the state can only blame itself for the chronic neglect of its foster children, hundreds of whom continue to sleep in Child Protective Services offices, hotels and makeshift facilities.

Bob Garrett is the Austin Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News. He told Texas Standard that U.S. District Judge Janis Jack continues to be outspoken in her criticism of the state’s handling of the foster care system, six years after first ruling that the system was “broken.”

Garrett says Jack is likely to order a summit among state agencies and plaintiffs in the long-running lawsuit the judge oversees.

“It’s been going on, I think, 15-plus years, and it ebbs and flows, but it’s back at flood tide right now,” Garrett said.

A portion of Judge Jack’s ruling in the case that required the state to create a wider array of placement options was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“She has not had the control over the supply of beds that she sought,” Garrett said. “She still has the responsibility for the safety of these kids.”

Jack has said that when other states have closed large numbers of substandard foster care facilities, those states have still been able to create a system that houses and cares for the foster children for which they are responsible.

“She is saying [Texas] failed to prepare for it,” Garrett said.

Garrett says Jack has found that some three-quarters of state foster care providers are continuing to accept children, while the remainder are not, leading to children being housed in offices and other temporary locations. Jack has argued the state should be able to find suitable providers that will be able to take in more foster kids.

The state of Texas has fought many elements of Jack’s ruling. Garrett says Gov. Greg Abbott has recently expressed support for reforms.

“But it’s not been clear that there’s a unified voice of command in Abbott’s administration,” Garrett said. “The two agencies involved have squabbled in certain instances.”

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