A new investigative series by the Austin-American Statesman out this week said the state's agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids has been underreporting the number of abuse-related deaths, has failed to analyze its own numbers. The publication, in a scathing indictment of Child Protective Services, said and in many ways it had been operating with blinders on regarding child deaths.
Last week Providence Service Corporation of Texas pulled out of a 5 year contract with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services after only 18 months. The contractor was part of a reform effort to consolidate kids under one service provider in a geographic area. Providence, which was covering areas of west Texas including Odessa and Wichita Falls, had recently been criticized for running millions over budget.
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.
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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.
The deaths of eight foster kids over the past year have sparked concerns and lawmakers are now being asked to review the Texas foster care system. Some child advocates say the blame lies with the legislature and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has asked lawmakers to take another look at the issue.
According to Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), foster parents in Texas are 53 times more likely to overmedicate children in their care than parents with non-foster children, but a law passed during the last legislative session will stop the practice.
The law regulates how many psychotropic drugs children in foster care can be given in an attempt to make a difference on the high number of children given five or more medications at one time.