Texas House, Senate unanimously vote to overhaul CPS

FILE - Child's play room. (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Child's play room. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After more than 200 children died in the state’s care last year, the Texas House and Senate passed a bill to overhaul Child Protective Services.

Lawmakers are looking for solutions to help the troubled agency lacking funding and employees. Almost 50 children enter the state’s foster care system every day. Last year, more than 1,000 children aged out of the system without finding a home. Those behind Senate Bill 11 hope to change that.

Wayne Carson, CEO of the non-profit ACH Child and Family Services tried to convince lawmakers that his group holds the keys to the state’s child welfare woes.

“We know our kids and we know our community. We can make faster and better decisions for kids by being more informed on what their needs are,” Carson said. His non-profit watched over abused and neglected children around Fort Worth, making sure they’re out of dangerous situations and into safe ones.

In a 2014 pilot project, ACH workers took over a role previously held by state caseworkers. Lawmakers are now trying to phase in that so-called “community based care,” first in North Texas, then in eight regions across the state over two years.

If the bill becomes law, the success of the program will rest in the Department of Family and Protective Services. ACH put up $6 million of their own money to make it work at the beginning.

Sarah Crockett oversees Texas CASA volunteers who will tag team with the non-profit workers instead of stat employees. “If they want this to be successful they are going to need to make sure that there’s money in the budget to implement this successfully,” she said. If it doesn’t work, the state will continue struggling to take care of its most vulnerable.

One idea would create a system to better track children at risk of dangerous situations in their homes. Under SB 11, a standalone agency will be created to directly report to the governor.

Another proposal under the bill would require children to receive a medical exam within three days of entering the foster care system. CPS would then have 30 days for the child to have a full comprehensive assessment to determine their specific behavioral or medical health needs.

Non-profits would also team up with Family-Based Safety Services as a part of the regional pilot program. Together they would create the Foster Care Oversight and Quality Assurance Division to provide services for Texas children and families.

News broke in 2016 that CPS responded too late or not at all to hundreds of reports of abuse every day.

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