Close to 1,000 of Texas’ most at-risk children in foster care have been denied crucial daily check-ins by the state’s Child Protective Services, according to internal data made public on Tuesday. This number only represents children at “immediate risk of physical or sexual abuse”— in total, the state has let nearly 5,000 children suspected of abuse to go without necessary face-to-face visits.
The disturbing news is just the latest in building reports of long-term negligence coming from the state foster care program—problems that the feds have ordered the state to fix.
It began with a 2011 lawsuit against the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, claiming officials showed “deliberate indifference” to the well-being and safety of some 12,000 kids in state care. Governor Greg Abbott (then Attorney General) aggressively denied these claims, arguing that the state was not constitutionally responsible for placing children in homes that were up to “professional standards.”
Abbott’s questionable line of defense was put to an end in federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack vilified DFPS in a 250-page ruling last year that demanded serious reforms to the flawed system that put children in unreasonable risk of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.
Jack ordered two special masters, experts in child welfare and law, to oversee reforms and suggest long-term fixes after six months. Their report is expected sometime this month.
At the same time, DFPS officials have said a $40 million budget gap has kept them from hiring needed caseworkers and finding safe, sustainable homes for children in the system—effectively slowing any reform.
"The key is getting more workers in the field, regardless of turnover," DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins told the Texas Tribune in an email.