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Austin TX Family Law Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Texas Set to Submit Plans for Major Child Welfare Overhaul

The Texas child welfare system has garnered quite a bit of publicity in recent years – and not for good reason. The system, which was grossly overworked and understaffed, is blamed for growing rates of abuse as workers are unable to promptly respond to the influx of hotline reports involving these allegations. As a result, federal oversight was mandated and a mandatory reform ordered – which will all take some time to sort out. In the immediate present, experts have put together a plan for reform, which tackles the major areas of concern that led U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack to declare the system unconstitutional in 2011.

As a result of the Court’s 2011 finding, a group of special masters was convened to pinpoint the most pressing issues and come up with solutions. At the forefront is the issue of caseload, which the masters believe should be set at between 14 and 17 – not 30, as is the case in many jurisdictions. From there, the masters seek to phase out “group foster homes,” which can house up to 12 children at a time and create a heightened risk of sexual abuse between peers.

Moreover, the masters have highlighted the unfortunate plight of children who “age out” of foster care without ever reaching permanency through adoption or guardianship – a scenario which does not set the child up for success in adulthood. When children do not realize a permanent familial arrangement, they in turn do not have an adult mentor to turn to in their late teens and early twenties – a time when the presence of an older adult can leave a lifelong impact. Accordingly, a special emphasis on finding permanent homes for foster youth is detailed in the plan, which could impact up to 11,000 youth who are currently deemed “permanent wards of the state.”

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