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How Three Different Bills Could Change the Texas Foster Care System

Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Both houses of the Texas Legislature have unanimously approved an overhaul of how the state cares for its most vulnerable kids. It's a sign they're moving quickly to address what a federal judge deemed a "broken" foster care system.

The Texas House passed one bill to make the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) a standalone agency and another bill to allow monthly payments for relatives caring for children in their families who have been abused. The Texas Senate bill relies much more on non-profits.

For a look at the details, Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Ward.

On a Texas House effort to make DFPS a stand-alone agency:

"The idea here is to allow the agency more flexibility as a stand-alone agency to be able to make decisions faster and respond to the needs of the children faster. Now, this would undo a combination, a merger of several agencies that was undertaken by the state more than a decade ago and it would pull DFPS out of the Health and Human Services Commission set of agencies."

On a Texas House effort to increase payment to relatives:

"What this bill would do would increase the payments in kinship cases – where kin of a child that was taken by the state – it would increase the payments to those folks. The idea here is to encourage more relatives to become foster parents or temporary parents for these children in state custody because of alleged abuse or neglect."

On efforts to ensure relatives are in the country legally:

"That was an item of some discussion in the House – quite a bitter argument actually – and the amendment was pulled down. The amendment would have required people who receive payments from CPS for foster care to be residents of the United States but that amendment was pulled down under the idea that we want these kids taken care of and we really don't want to be asking immigration questions."

On the Senate plan to rely more on nonprofits:

"The Senate believes that local groups, nonprofits and local organizations can step in here and can help with the placement and the custody arrangements for a lot of these 20-some thousand children that we're talking about in this system that has been troubled and broken for well over two decades. And this is where the Senate differs from the House.

"The House, so far, is sticking with a state-supervised and a state-operated, state-focused system utilizing state employees. The Senate, by its vote yesterday, has taken a tag of saying 'Let's see if we can outsource more of these services, including casework and case management to some of these non-profits and local organizations.' This is probably where the Senate and the House at some point are going to disagree greatly about the future direction."

Written by Laura Rice.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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