TX children’s advocates want foster care system fixed ASAP

Published 7:11 am Friday, December 31, 2021

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By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

The Texas foster-care system is suffering a severe shortage of safe and appropriate placement homes, resulting in an expert panel being convened to address the problem and a myriad of others.
Kate Murphy, senior child welfare policy associate at Texans Care for Children, said the number of kids who did not have a safe home within the foster-care system hit a record high in mid-2021, but is now declining.
“We know we’ve had a really significant spike in the number of kids we couldn’t find homes for,” Murphy noted. “Part of the reason those numbers are going down is because we’re placing kids out of state, or we’re using temporary, emergency placements.”
In the past two years, at least 65 Texas foster-care operations have closed, more than a third of them for safety reasons, creating a loss of more than 2,000 available beds. Texas lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation this year to address ongoing issues including approving millions to fund caseworkers, retain providers and increase foster-care capacity.
Murphy pointed out many in the state’s foster-care system receive a “child without placement” designation, meaning the state cannot find a suitable placement. She added those children have the most acute levels of need, often suffering from trauma or abuse, drug addiction or mental illness.
“So what we’re seeing is that kids are coming into care because they can’t get their needs met, and then the system is unable to meet those needs,” Murphy observed. “We’re seeing that happen disproportionately with older youths.”
The pandemic has been a unique stressor for older youths, according to Murphy, because of system challenges, but also because they are more vulnerable.
“We have so many young adults who leave foster care and have limited resources,” Murphy explained. “They depend on some of the jobs that were most effected by the pandemic, like the service industry.”
Murphy is gratified new policies adopted by the state this year will help older youths transitioning out of foster care to establish a rental history and credit rating, a serious challenge for those who have been in the system for a number of years.