Lawmakers look into keeping foster kids safe

Texas State Capitol. (Eric Janzen/KXAN)
Texas State Capitol. (Eric Janzen/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) –  Thursday morning a group of state lawmakers will discuss ways to protect children in foster care.  The House committee on Child Protection is meeting for the first time since a 6-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother at a foster home drowned in Lake Georgetown earlier this month.

The Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) said the case is still under investigation, but it’s an incident that has lawmakers and advocacy groups questioning the safety of foster kids.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D)  chairs the nine member committee which met Thursday. Several speakers, including John Specia, the commissioner of DFPS, will talk about ways to better the system so that kids don’t fall through the cracks.

They’ll look at the current welfare system policies and contracts, look at improvements to screening and training potential foster families and also look into ways foster children can report neglect or abuse.

In April, DFPS approved new safety rules that would increase screening for potential foster parents.  The last revisions were done in 2007, but the state made the recent changes in response the the high number for deaths in 2013.  The state said 10 kids in foster homes died because of abuse or neglect.

The new requirements would be in addition to the old ones which include criminal background checks, interviews and so forth.

News Rules

  • Additional interview of a family member who doesn’t live in the foster parent’s home
  • Additional interviews of neighbors and community members who know foster parent
  • An assessment of personal relationships of foster parents
  • Look at a review of household finances.

The changes go into effect September first.

There’s a time for public testimony during Thursday’s hearing.

Advocates from Texans Care for Children plan to speak and will ask ask lawmakers to reduce case loads and improve training standards for foster parents

“I feel very hurt by these same struggles and these same stories that I heard when I was a CPS case worker and I think that it’s important that our legislature finally commit consistently to make sure that CPS case workers have the resources and support they need,” said Ashley Harris, Child Welfare Policy Associate for Texans Care for Children.

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