News Tip:Texas Foster Care Scandal?

Date: 2008-05-15

News Tip:Texas Foster Care Scandal?

May 15, 2008

Having once been an investigator working child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse of children, and infant/child homicideback in the 1970'sthe for State of Texas; I know a little about process.

First question, was taking custody of over four hundred children in one incident"over reaching"as the original complaint involved possible sexual abuse of teen age girls; not pre-teen girls, boys, or small children?

Having been involved in other investigations of Child Protective Services abuses and civil rights violations, as much effort needs to be spent investigating the State Agencyas the people living in the religous compound. I am not defending neglect or abuse of children buy anyone, including those living in the compound, or those getting paidwith taxpayer dollars who are in many cases the most incompetent and prejudicial investgators on"mother earth" to use a "green" term.

Do not take my word for it, review the following news tip.Then again, is it possible thatthe above state agency might srtarting raiding communities of conservatives for teaching their children bad thoughts? Satire or future prediction?

Orignally published in Youth Law News, April-June 2004. In 2003, following a series of highly publicized tragedies in foster care nationwide, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn launched an investigation into the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS).

As part of the investigation, Strayhorn and her staff made unannounced visits to foster care facilities across the state. They also reviewed records and spoke to people within the system, including the foster children it is designed to serve. On April 6, Strayhorn's office released a special report entitled Forgotten Children, documenting the crisis in the Texas foster care system and calling for a massive system overhaul.

Background In 2003, Texas served 26,133 children in its dual, public-private foster care system. In that system, the state distributes funds and oversees the provision of services, while both the state government and private child-placing agencies (CPA) run foster care programs. Whether a child ends up in a state-run or CPA program depends largely on the outcome of the child's initial assessment. This assessment influences the child's placement and services, and defines the reimbursement rate paid to the child's care provider. Reimbursement rates vary dramatically. The basic individual reimbursement rate is $20 per day, but caregivers for children with the most complex needs receive as much as $277 per day.

As a general rule, the state cares for children at the lower service levels, while CPAs and residential treatment centers serve children with greater needs, and higher reimbursement rates. The Findings: A System in Crisis Forgotten Children paints an unsettling picture of the Texas foster care system. In her executive summary, Strayhorn notes that: Some foster children have been moved among 30, 40 or even more all-to-temporary 'homes.' Some have been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused while in the system; some have run away and joined the ranks of the missing. A few have even died at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

The system's problems are many. Texas foster youth experience unstable and inadequate placements and services. These problems are then compounded by DPRS's deficient licensing, inspection, and contracting practices. Lack of Stability Texas foster youth are moved frequently; often, children are moved hundreds of miles from their last placement, and from their biological families. During the first three years that a child is in foster care, he or she will face about two new placements each year. For some children, the lack of permanency has been even more glaring. Twelve of the children who were in foster care in 2002 had experienced 40 or more placements. Deficient Services Although many foster children live in clean, safe environments with loving caregivers, too many others do not. In far too many cases, DPRS has allowed children to spend years in overly restrictive, unsafe environments, without appropriate services.

Despite the requirement that foster children be in the least restrictive environment,5 DPRS offers a perverse incentive favoring restrictive settings—paying higher reimbursement rates for such placements. Even worse, the agency's inadequate licensing and monitoring practices leave children in unsafe and unsanitary facilities. Children with acute needs are spending months and years in therapeutic camps licensed under lax temporary facility standards, where health and sanitation violations often go unchecked. In addition, the Comptroller's report documents a shocking prevalence of abuse and neglect. Foster youth often come to the system because those expected to care for them neglected that charge. Once in the hands of the state, these children are too frequently experiencing continued abuse, both from their new care providers and from their peers. Moreover, DPRS has failed to take steps to minimize the risks of abuse related injuries and deaths. The agency has allowed children with histories of sexual offenses and violent crimes to be placed with other children, and has failed to investigate and publicize the details behind preventable tragedies.6 Foster children are harmed further by DPRS's failure to offer appropriate services. Too many children are provided an abundance of medication, and little else, to address their health and educational needs. The report revealed that many foster youth are taking multiple psychotropic medications with serious side effects, some of which have not been studied in children.7 While the foster care system has been liberal in the distribution of medication, services to address the needs of medically fragile and special needs children have been far less abundant. As a result, too many children with developmental disabilities are institutionalized, and too few children leave the system with adequate educational training. Inadequate Oversight The report also presents a bleak picture of DPRS's monitoring performance. High caseloads keep caseworkers from spending adequate time with their clients. CPAs complain that they are held to a substantially higher standard than state-run facilities. Worse, even the standards applied to CPAs are inadequate to ensure that children are safe, and receiving basic care. DPRS also has a history of inadequate licensing standards, weak contract monitoring and insufficient investigations. Although state law requires annual facility inspections, only 42 percent of surveyed facilities received complete inspections in both 2002 and 2003. The state's failure to oversee licensees allows the same problems to fester in the same facilities over a period of years. Even when an investigation or public report does uncover serious violations, facilities that are in stark noncompliance with DPRS policies often receive little more than a slap on the wrist. An Austin newspaper published sheriff's department figures indicating that over a four-year period, deputies responded to more than 350 calls at a single foster youth camp in the area. Even when faced with such clear evidence of problems, DPRS has no policy in place requiring review. Of the more than 600 facilities operating statewide in 2003, DPRS had revoked only one license, suspended four, placed one facility on probation, and placed six others on evaluation status. Life After Foster Care Not surprisingly, the inadequacies of the Texas foster care system have lasting effects upon foster youth. Upon leaving the system, these youth are more likely than their peers to face homelessness, poor educational attainment, criminal behavior, drug addiction, mental illness, and health problems. Thirty-two percent of the 900 children that exit Texas foster care every year leave without a high school diploma or its equivalent. In addition, 41 percent of former foster youth have experienced homelessness. Many of these young people, facing the prospect of life on their own without adequate educational or career training, resort to drug use and criminal activity.


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