Non-profit wants more foster care reform to protect Texas children

- Texas lawmakers are required to improve the state's foster care system after a federal order following a lawsuit.  So is that happening?  There were 88 pieces of legislation introduced recently to fix the foster care system problems here in Texas.  Twenty-one bills passed, including improvements to help kids who age out of foster care, but one Houston non-profit says that isn't enough.

“The Texas foster care system is broken.  The eyes of the nation are looking at Texas as we deal with foster care in our state,” says Dr. Bob Sanborn President of the non-profit Children At Risk.  “Unfortunately we’ve seen a band-aid put on the foster care system and a lot more needs to be done,” Sanborn adds. He says kids in Texas foster care are more likely to end up in human trafficking and less likely to go to college.

"They’re much more likely to end up in poverty.  A third of foster care children end up homeless in our state,” says Sunburn.

So the group Children’s Rights sued Texas on behalf of foster kids in the state and the judge ruled the system needs to be fixed.  Going into the last legislative session Texas lawmakers had a list of things to fulfill regarding foster care reform.

”What the court said was these children have a right to be free of an unreasonable risk of harm because the state has assumed care for these children.  The court found, we find these types of things with prisoners, we could at least do it for our children,” says Jaime Caruthers Senior Attorney for Children at Risk.

“What the court has agreed with us is, our children in the state of Texas are indeed in more danger when we take them outside of these dangerous homes and if our foster care system was a family we’d be removing those children,” adds Dr. Sanborn.

”It’s like you take them away from their family. Their parents might not be the best but they’re trying and you put them in another crappy situation,” says 17-year-old Demacio Johnson who has been in foster care since he was 10 years old.  Johnson says he's grateful groups are standing up for foster children after he says he's seen his fair share of abuse and neglect in foster homes.  "I wasn’t necessarily scared but more so disgusted,” says the teenager.

Houston's Children At Risk gathered a group of law students to study solutions to the problem.

”Once the children are in the foster care system, we saw a lot of children in the foster group homes and foster family homes where they were being abused by other children,” explains Emory University Law Student Kate Freeman.  Freeman says the state could have made it a requirement for Texas foster homes to have someone who is awake and supervising the kids 24 hours a day but that didn't happen. She also points out, those appointed by the judge to oversee the reform also suggested a special hotline specifically for foster kids to report abuse. "And the state didn’t do anything about that and that’s something we think could make a big difference,” says the law student.

The students are also studying other states that outsource foster care services.  The theory is that will ease the caseload and caseworkers will be able to better monitor the children in their care.

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