Why the Texas Foster Care System is Being Called ‘Broken’ and ‘Unconstitutional’

“Another case of Texas being ordered by a federal judge to do right in one of its institutional systems.”

By Rhonda FanningDecember 18, 2015 11:49 am, ,

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi ruled Thursday that Texas kids in foster care often leave the state system in a worse position than when they entered.

This is another huge blow to an already battered system overseen by the state Department of Family and Protective Services.

Robert Garrett, Austin bureau reporter for The Dallas Morning News talks about the ruling and what could mean for about 30,000 children currently in the system.

“[Judge Jack] said that under the 14th amendment to the constitution, you can’t be in state custody and be abused this way,” he says. “These children, in all too many cases face sexual assault, physical assault, overuse of psychotropic medications, that are treated very badly, sent far from their home communities, split up from sibling groups – and that has to stop.”

Garrett says that each of the nine plaintiffs were only identified by two initials because of their status as minors in the class-action lawsuit, with documentation supporting their “true horror stories.”

Although reports of deaths in foster care have been in the news this most recent decade, Garrett says the system has been increasingly privatized over the past 25 years.

“The state has had a very hard time staying on top of who the good contractors are and the bad contractors are, and weeding out the latter,” he says.

The pushback from key Texas leaders, Garrett says, will likely come from Jack calling the system “broken,” in part due to Child Protective Service caseworkers who tend to foster children.

“They’re called conservatorship workers,” he says. “[They’re] groaning under some of the nation’s highest case loads and basically lose track of kids.”

Judge Jack plans to appoint a special master to recommend improvements within 30 days to address the need for case workers. Garrett says these suggestions could call for new hires, involving millions of dollars.

“Another case of Texas being ordered by a federal judge to do right in one of its institutional systems,” he says.