- Via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
A week after being called out for neglecting nearly 1,000 of Texas’ most at-risk children in foster care, state leaders are demanding that state Child Protective Services department clean up its act.
“The state’s residential providers must be held to the highest standards while caring for our most vulnerable or no longer operate in our system,” wrote Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus in a joint letter to CPS' Hank Whitman yesterday. The trio gave Whitman a week to pull together a solution.
Whitman has been the head of Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services—CPS’ parent department—for barely four months. Gov. Abbott, however, has a long history of dealing with allegations against CPS. In fact, he spent a good chunk of his career as Texas Attorney General fighting in court against serious claims of child neglect within the agency, denying many of the same problems that he openly addressed (and condemned) in this week's letter.
In 2012, legal defense group Children’s Rights sued the state for failing to keep foster children safe while in state custody. The complaints are rife with cases of sexual assault, mental and physical abuse and overarching neglect found in state foster care. Instead of investigating these claims, Abbott’s office aggressively defended the state, ultimately arguing that children in foster care do not have a "federal constitutional right to reside in foster group homes that are compliant with 'accepted professional standards.'"
Last December, a U.S. District Court judge finally ruled on the case, echoing the original claims made by Children’s Rights. CPS was violating children’s constitutional rights and needed serious reform as soon as possible.
Abbott and his fellow officials, however, waited until last week, when CPS released yet more info showing how rarely caseworkers even made face-to-face visits with “high-risk” foster children, to pen an outraged demand.
“We...will not tolerate inferior residential foster care operations,” the letter reads. Good to know Abbott's tolerance level has changed.