Federal report shows more cracks in Texas foster care system

FILE - Swings (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - Swings (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — A new federal report shows more lapses in the state’s foster care system.

The audit by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday also indicates Child Protective Services (CPS) potentially put foster kids at risk by failing to meet deadlines when investigating reports of abuse and neglect.

“You got this big old state and it just seems like we can’t get a handle on it,” said Rep. James White, R-Hillister.

Out of the 100 child welfare cases reviewed in Texas, federal auditors found 46 did not comply with federal and state requirements, including investigators not reporting to supervisors in a timely manner.

“These folks have a very tough job but we need to hold them accountable, we can’t have kids dying in our system,” White said. Child welfare officials defended the thoroughness of its investigative process. In a statement, the spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services wrote, “This ‘audit’ is a bureaucratic exercise that found no state or federal law violations.”

“Also, it is important to note that despite the suggestive language, the audit found no weaknesses in our child abuse investigations.”

The report comes one day before the governor is set to sign a package of legislation that includes a $500 million funding increase for CPS and its partners.

The plans will allow CPS to contract with non-profit and faith-based organizations to outsource the responsibilities of CPS caseworkers. Rep. White is hopeful the changes will address the issues highlighted in the federal audit. He said, “As we move through the rest of the year and going into the beginning of next year, we should see a V-curve upward in the quality of work that our CPS folks are doing.”

Even with community-based care, investigations of abuse and neglect reports, remain solely in the hands of CPS.

According to the audit, failure to meet investigation deadlines “undermines the State agency’s internal controls for providing oversight of the investigation and could place foster care children at risk,” the report read.

The conclusion of the audit continued, “However, we recognize that meeting established timeframes should not come at the expense of performing high quality investigations.”

Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to sign four bills that aim to reform the CPS system into law Wednesday.

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