The Foster Care System is Broken, But the State’s Fighting an Order to Fix It

The state has been ordered to change its foster care system, but it’s “fighting tooth and nail” to get out from under the ruling.

By Alain StephensFebruary 23, 2016 1:00 pm,

The state’s track record for its Child Protective Services is a tumultuous one. A couple of months ago, a series of stories were circulating around a massive federal lawsuit filed against the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees foster care, adoption and daycare licensing in Texas.

The lawsuit, brought by national child welfare organization Children’s Rights, alleged that the state opened up children to more damage in the system than outside of it. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ruled against the state, saying the foster care system is “broken.”

In her blistering 260-page ruling, Jack wrote: “The Court does not understand, nor tolerate, the systemic willingness to put children in mortal harm’s way and declared that Texas had allowed kids in its care to be repeatedly exposed to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.”

The sweeping ruling called for the appointment of a special master to oversee the reformation of the department. Since then, it seems Texas hasn’t been very public about restructuring that system. In fact, Texas is trying to appeal the ruling.

Craig Malisow, writer for the Houston Press, says we haven’t heard much about the case since early January, because people still aren’t getting the full picture.

“I don’t think people are, even after all this time, fully aware of how bad things are,” Malisow says.

The group, Children’s Rights, isn’t only looking to Texas to change their foster care system. It regularly works with local advocates in problem states to identify what needs fixing, then the group takes the legal approach to foster change. In most states, Malisow says, the states settle before going to trial. But that didn’t happen in Texas.

“The judge found that in most cases kids leave the system worse off than when they entered into it,” Malisow says.

For example, in one case that provided evidence that problems with state foster care were systems, a 16-year-old girl passed through 19 care facilities in seven years. Malisow says she was physically and sexually abused at almost all the places who were supposed to care for the child. The abuse was never investigated by the state.

“The judge essentially said that this was not the exception but the norm,” Malisow says.

Now, the state has a pending appeal to the ruling to drastically transform the department. In the meantime it will still have to follow through with the orders to find a special master and start implementing some of those changes.

“But the state seems to be fighting tooth and nail to get out from under that order,” Malisow says.