Proposed $133 Million State Health Budget Cut Could Mean Less Oversight For Troubled Day Care, Foster Care Systems

State agencies, including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, were directed to cut 5% of their budgets because of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Jill AmentJuly 17, 2020 12:46 pm, ,

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, or HHSC, recently proposed a $133 million cut to its budget after a directive from top state lawmakers that all state agencies reduce expenses by 5%. The agency’s proposed cuts could lead to less funding for things like women’s health services, services for adults with disabilities, child abuse protection in day care facilities and oversight of the foster care system.

Julie Chang, an investigative reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, told Texas Standard host David Brown on Friday that the agency proposed cuts to many areas of the state health care system, but with few details.

What did stand out were potential cuts to positions and travel expenses for day care center investigators. Chang said it would be “alarming” if the agency goes through with the cuts because a 2018 Statesman investigation found hundreds of children had been sexually abused, and 88 had died from abuse or neglect, in Texas day cares over a 10-year period.

In 2019, Texas lawmakers passed legislation to establish a day care investigation unit. But the budget cuts could put that plan in jeopardy.

“If that’s on the chopping block … it could mean possible lack of oversight in day cares, and this was something that was highlighted as a huge problem statewide,” Chang said.

The Texas foster care system is also troubled and currently in the midst of a lawsuit in federal court for its mishandling of child abuse and neglect cases. The budget cuts could slow the state’s efforts to improve that system.

But Chang said it’s unclear whether HHSC can make these cuts without compromising its legal obligations.

“I think that’s the big question of whether the state can both cut away dollars from Child Protective Services and still maintain the legal requirements of ensuring that children are  protected, children are seen in a timely manner if there’s an accusation of abuse or neglect,” she said.

Web story by Caroline Covington.

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