The Texas foster care system is violating the constitutional rights of children, and Texas must improve its investigations of child abuse allegations – that is the essence of a new ruling by a federal appeals court panel. The decision affirms a lower court finding that used similar language in 2015, ordering Texas officials to reform the foster care system. But the ruling also stated that the original order demanding changes went too far.
Stephanie Rubin is CEO of Texans Care for Children, a nonpartisan advocacy group based in Austin. She says the ruling is overwhelmingly positive.
"The ruling is a real vindication for the plaintiffs and an important victory for all kids in Texas foster care," Rubin says.
She says judges on the appeals court panel, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, found a "substantial risk of harm" to the more than 10,000 children in Texas foster care. Risks included high workloads for caseworkers, poor monitoring by the state and a failure by leaders to address the system's problems.
Rubin says the plaintiffs in the case were children who had been removed from their parents' homes, and had been in foster care for some time.
"What we think should happen is these kids' lives should get better," Rubin says. "And what the court found is that … the lives of too many kids in Texas foster care get worse, and that the state essentially knew the risks of harm and ignored them for decades."
Because the appeals court invalidated some remedies ordered by the lower-court judge who initially ruled, Rubin says the state needs to find new ways to address the problems that continue to exist. She says the state will need to fund more caseworkers, increase oversight at large facilities where foster children are housed, and hire more staff to provide oversight of the system.
Rubin says she doesn't think the state will appeal the appeals court's ruling, and that it will begin to take steps to comply.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.