‘The Whole Mess Is Before Them’: U.S. Court Of Appeals Takes Up Texas Foster Care Case

The case against the state, filed seven years ago, is back in federal court.

By Rhonda FanningMay 1, 2018 12:56 pm,

Texas is back in federal court making the case before a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals over the state’s foster care system.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered sweeping changes to Texas foster care, which at one time she declared to be unconstitutionally endangering young Texans.  Since then, the judge has called state lawmakers’ efforts to improve foster care “admirable” but insufficient.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly appealed that decision. “The judge and the special masters acted outside of their legal authority,” Paxton said, “and ordered a plan that is both incomplete and impractical.”

Bob Garrett has been covering the case for The Dallas Morning News and was in the courtroom in New Orleans on Monday. Garrett says Texas leaders like Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott have argued that each state should be left alone to run its own child welfare system.

“Moreover, Texas says that its system is not constitutionally horrible, the way the plaintiffs’ lawyers say,” Garrett says.

The state is fighting dozens of requirements.

“A whole bunch of things,” he says, “including hiring more CPS caseworkers. Also, hiring more of the investigators and inspectors who would keep tabs on and police the foster care private contractors. Also doing a lot more to improve the records that track these children. And just on and on it goes.”

The state’s lawyers are arguing that Judge Jack wrongly applied the law. Garrett says the appeals court judges in New Orleans appear to be divided.

“The whole mess is before them,” Garrett says. “Both the finding that Texas did bad, and Judge Jack’s remedies.”

He says the case was filed seven years ago and it remains unclear what the outcome will be.

Written by Jen Rice.