Reforming Texas’ Foster Care System

May 31, 2017 | Austin, Texas | Press Release | Legislative | Legislative - Signature Statement

Governor Abbott Signs Legislation Reforming Texas Foster Care System

Governor Greg Abbott today signed several bills that will reform Texas’ foster care system and Child Protective Services (CPS). In his State of the State address, Governor Abbott made reforming CPS an emergency legislative priority and stated that his goal was to have no more child deaths in the Texas foster care system. The signing of these laws allows CPS to place more children with relatives, increase capacity of foster homes by streamlining regulations, and move toward a community-based care system.

The primary goal of government is to keep citizens safe, and that is even more important when it comes to children in our care, 

said Governor Abbott.

“Children dying while in the care of the state is intolerable, and these new laws are a needed step to ending such tragedies. I thank the Legislature for their bipartisan support of these measures I declared emergency items. I’d also like to extend my thanks to all CPS staff for their tireless dedication to caring for vulnerable children in trying circumstances.”

In December, prior to the start of the legislative session, $150 million was allocated to the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS), which provided funding for both additional caseworkers and salary increases to existing ones, resulting in:

  • A 35 percent decreased in CPS Investigations turnover rate since fiscal year 2016.
  • A 23 percent decrease in Family Based Safety Services turnover rate.
  • A 15 percent decrease in caseworker turnover rate.

Additionally, DFPS has seen significant improvements in the outcomes of children in state care, including:

  • A 27 percent year-over-year decrease in caseloads, from an average of 18.2 per caseworker, to 13.3.
  • Increasing, by 14.5 percent, the number of high-risk children seen within 24 hours.
  • Dramatic growth in the number of congregations who have partnered with DFPS and the foster care system, bringing the previous total of 71 to 1,267 during the past year.

HB 4 (Burkett, R-Dallas, Schwertner, R-Georgetown): provides financial assistance of 50% of the daily foster care payment to a caregiver with a family income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.  The monthly payments are allowable for one year with the option for a 6 month extension.  Upon entering into a formal caregiver agreement, an annual reimbursement payment to aid in childcare expenses is provided.   Kinship placements experience fewer disruptions, better outcomes for children, and shorter lengths of stay compared to the traditional foster care system.  In addition to being more cost effective than foster care, the kinship allows for children to maintain a familial connection. 

HB 5 (Frank, R-Wichita Falls, Schwertner, R-Georgetown): established DFPS as a standalone agency.  Requires DFPS and HHSC to enter into contracts for the provision of “shared administrative services” including payroll, procurement, information resources, rate setting, purchasing and contracting.  Prioritizes child care licensing investigations of abuse and neglect by transferring them to CPS investigations.  This restructuring will improve the pace of decision-making in abuse and neglect investigations and afford an organizational flexibility for DFPS to manage its service delivery and workforce more effectively.  With greater oversight and direct reporting to the Governor, the agency will continue focus on quality timely investigations, well-trained workforce and accountability for decisions.

HB 7 (Wu, D-Houston, Uresti, D-San Antonio): reforms the court processes and procedures for child welfare suits.  It maintains many protections for parents trying to navigate the court process and efforts intended to reduce trauma for vulnerable children.  By clarifying the child protection services suits, motions and services by DFPS, children and families can be reunited faster. This bill would also create greater flexibility in the licensing of foster care providers, so as to aid in growing much needed capacity. The changes in statute will allow existing high quality providers to build off of their current license without the restrictions which previously existed. 

SB 11: (Schwertner, R-Georgetown, Frank, R-Wichita Falls): provides for the expansion of community based care (CBC) and transfer case management function from the state to the CBC provider.  Requires the creation of Case Management Vendor Quality Oversight and Assurance Division for monitoring of contract adherence and to better assure the positive outcomes our children deserve, the provider will have opportunities for financial incentives, but also for penalties if necessary.  Requires the tracking of recurrence of victims and perpetrators, and aligns the definitions for investigations in facilities to match existing CPS investigations definitions.  Bill takes steps to reduce amount of time a child’s situation is unresolved by requiring automatic dismissal of trials not commenced after a year and ends court jurisdiction.  Improves the process for a child entering the state’s care to receive an initial medical exam not later than the third business day after the date of removal if the child is removed as the result of sexual abuse, physical abuse or obvious physical injury or has a chronic medical condition, medically complex condition or diagnosed mental illness, but clarifies that a physician conducting examination may not administer vaccinations unless it is an emergency tetanus vaccination.