The Department of Family and Protective Services has put a temporary hold on foster care placements with a private contractor following the drowning deaths of two children placed in a home by the company.
Child advocacy groups are demanding reforms, pointing to the record number of children dying in the Texas foster care system over the last year.
DFPS announced they were temporarily suspending the state contract with Providence Services Corporation pending the state’s investigation of the a drowning deaths of a 4-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister at Lake Georgetown over the July 4 weekend.
“I don’t want to be too quick to start pointing fingers and start blaming the department yet because we don’t have all the facts," said State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who has closely monitored foster care in Texas. "I think my knee jerk reaction to this matter would be, 'Who was watching those kids?' "
Uresti helped pass legislation in 2013 that called for more monitoring and oversight regarding the number psychotropic drugs children in foster care were being prescribed.
Eileen Garcia is the CEO with the nonprofit Texans Care for Children and said this tragedy is another example why Texas needs stronger foster care safety standards.
“And some of the things could include better safety standards for screening and training foster parents, more thorough evaluations at foster homes," Garcia said.
Garcia also questioned whether “parenting” is something the state should contract to a private company under an on-going pilot program.
"You know, I think it's also worth our state considering and looking at whether we feel certain functions should even be considered for contracting out," Garcia said. "And also whether contracts for the well-being of our people, and especially for our kids, should be contracted out for profit.”
How the state inspects foster homes and how often is one of the interim charges for state lawmakers, who will determine if additional legislation is needed ahead of the 2015 legislative session.