Members of the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services are aiming to improve the state’s foster care system -- this week’s discussion comes on the heels of a report that startled lawmakers.
In last three years, according to a report, the state investigated 804 child fatalities -- ten of which involved children in foster care and 23 percent of which were open cases that had some type of abuse reported.
John Specia, the commissioner of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, told lawmakers part of the problem is related to the agency's 17-year-old computer system for handling claims before the death of a child.
"It is too old, it’s based on an old infrastructure, but we have contracts out right now and there are people today that working on improving that system," Specia said. "But it’s kind of like remodeling a B-52 while we are flying."
The Legislature addressed that issue last session, providing $23 million to update the system for tracking and reporting abuse. Specia told lawmakers at this week's hearing they would need an additional $20 million to complete the update.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said the Legislature was also promised that new rules for reviewing and monitoring and conducting background checks on foster parents were to take effect several years ago.
"I thought that some of these same processes were being put in place," West said. "As an example, law enforcement checks? Duh. I mean -- that’s just being proposed as a rule?"
Specia said he will lay out the proposed changes for foster care at a hearing in late April.