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Safeguarding Children in Texas Foster Care: Key Issues in Policy and Practice Recommendations to Improve Child Safety in Foster Care

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In Texas, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children dying in foster care due to abuse and neglect. These tragedies are preventable. Children in foster care deserve to be protected from further maltreatment and placed in settings where they are safe and can thrive for a lifetime.

Even  one  child’s  death  is  a  devastating  reflection  of  holes  in  our  child  welfare  system.  When  children  are  removed  from  their  home  due  to  abuse  and  neglect,  our  state’s  child  protection  system  is  conveying  to  parents  that  their  child  is  safer  in  the  care,  custody,  and  control  of  the  Department  of  Family and  Protective  Services  (DFPS) than in the  child’s  own  home.  Yet,  in  fiscal  year  2013,  ten kids  in  the  custody  of  DFPS’  Child  Protective  Services  (CPS)  died  as  a  result  of  abuse  and  neglect,  compared  to  two  child  deaths  in  the  previous  fiscal  year.
Historically,  chronic  underfunding  has  plagued  the  Texas  child  welfare  system.  Caseloads  have  consistently  been  unmanageable,  far exceeding  the  recommended  average  for  all  CPS caseworkers  in  Texas.
 
Currently,  90  percent  of  children  in  foster  care  are  placed  in  settings managed  by  private  providers.  Each  child-­‐placing  agency  is  responsible  for  verifying,  regulating,  and  monitoring  individual  foster  and  adoptive  homes  for  compliance  with  minimum  standards,  statutory  requirements,  and  the  child-­‐placing  agency’s  own  policies.  State regulation  and  oversight  of  the  private  providers  is  limited.  
 
This  report  outlines  a  number  of  steps  the  state  can  take  to  improve  child  safety  in  foster  care.  The  report  notes  which  recommendations were  included  in  the  April  4,  2014 proposals  by  the  DFPS  Council.  After  it  receives public  comments  on  its proposals,  the  Council  is expected  to  approve  them  to  take  effect  on  September  1,  201