The 86th Legislative Session will begin January 8, 2019, and in preparation, the Department of Family and Protective Services released its Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for Fiscal Years 2020-2021 on August 31.
First, let’s review the previous session:
Before the 2017 Texas Legislative Session, Child Protective Services was plagued with problems. Governor Greg Abbott declared child protection an emergency, asking lawmakers to approve structural reforms and increase funding. The 85th Legislature responded by providing additional investments for Fiscal Years 2018-2019. Some of these investments were for: 1) prevention and early intervention, including home visiting programs, 2) additional caseworkers and meaningful salary increases to better ensure manageable workloads and retain caseworkers, 3) new relative caregiver monthly financial payments to reduce reliance on the foster care system and help keep children with their extended family, and 4) foster care payments for the legacy system and to expand Community Based Care to help stabilize the foster care provider base.
Due to the investments and legislation passed by the 85th legislature, DFPS has made significant advances:
- Turnover in Investigations has dropped more than 14 percent, from 30.5 percent in July 2016 to 26.2 percent in July 2018. Similarly, investigative average daily caseloads have dropped more than 22.5 percent, from 16.4 in July 2016 to 12.7 in July 2018. Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) and Conservatorship (CVS) have seen similar decreases and both are now below 20.0 percent.
- More children are being seen by caseworkers in a timely manner with contacts for highest priority cases improving by almost 15 percent.
- 36 percent more youth are completing the Preparation for Adult Living training, and the average number of months for foster children to permanency has decreased by 6 percent.
- More children are being placed with relatives, an increase from 44 percent to 46 percent. The national average for relative placements is 32 percent.
- Expansion of prevention services to increase the level of evidence-based programs and community initiatives to support children before they are abused and neglected. In the FY 2018-19 biennium, PEI projects to serve 128,000 families and youth, more than 98% of whom it expects to defer from both child protection and juvenile justice.
Now, the legislative appropriations request for 2019:
In its baseline request of $4.2 billion for fiscal years 2020-2021, DFPS requests funds to continue essential agency operations and a minor increase of 1.64 percent for Child Protective Services due to growth. The agency also includes exceptional items as an additional funding request to maintain current services levels, continue legislative initiatives, and fill in gaps in its service system and critical agency operations.
The Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s Budget Office will hold a hearing for the public to weigh in on the agency’s LAR at 11am on Friday, Sept. 14, at the Texas Capitol, in room E2.016.
The additional funding requests include:
- $30.8 million to expand prevention services. Investment in prevention reduces the increasing demand for costly foster care by devoting resources to preventing maltreatment before a child is traumatized by abuse or neglect or separated from their family. PEI services also provide cost avoidance in juvenile justice and high Medicaid costs in adulthood. Some specific programs included in the request:
- STAR – increased investment of $9,228,000 or 19% increase to expand its available programming across the state to serve an additional 6,000 families.
- CYD increased investment of $4,083,600 or 24% increase to serve an additional 4,100 families.
- HOPES – increased investment of $9,420,000 or 17% increase to serve an additional 1,200 families. HOPES could expand to serve contiguous counties of existing HOPES contracts. The Prevention and Early Intervention division of DFPS would also explore existing community need for increasing program capacity.
- Nurse-Family Partnership – increased investment of $5,530,800 or 18% increase to serve an additional 550 families. Expansion of this program would blend geographic and programmatic expansion. While some programs may be poised to expand their geographic coverage to serve contiguous counties of existing TNFP contracts, other communities may increase the number of individuals they can serve.
Child Protective Services
- $116.7 million for additional caseworkers, intake specialists, and support staff to maintain the caseworker and statewide intake workload levels and to lower the average hold time at the statewide abuse call center to 8.5 minutes.
- $1.9 million for Employee Support Services to create a team to address the impact of trauma on direct delivery staff. As required by HB 1549, 85R, the proposed team will focus on development of a secondary trauma program and supports for caseworkers, including incident stress debriefing.
- $4.4 million for a salary increase of $500/month for Statewide Intake staff to improve retention, thereby enhancing tenure and enabling improved performance.
- $9.7 million to strengthen Child Protective Investigations outcomes, provide key investigations support, and prevent human trafficking.
- $136.6 million to meet the increased demand for day care, CPS client services, and relative caregiver financial assistance.
- $62.6 million to support the continued phased in expansion of the Community Based Care foster care model to a total of nine geographic catchment areas covering approximately 74% of children in paid foster care by the end of fiscal year 2021. This request would continue and expand four existing catchment areas and fund five new catchment areas over the course of the biennium.
- Funding for Medical Services Well-Being Staff to support CPS caseworkers and caregivers through initiating appeals, monitoring fair hearings, and facilitating resolution as part of the STAR Health processes associated with denials. Staff will also monitor data to analyze issues and coordinate with HHSC to resolve.
Preparation for Adulthood
- $19.7 million for key initiatives and client support, including: Preparation for Adult Living staff and Regional Youth Specialists, additional case management for youth who have complex needs in Supervised Independent Living, and behavioral health services for children in post-adoption and post permanency relative homes.
Family First Prevention Services Act
The request for additional investment also includes a placeholder to address the new requirements from the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
In February 2018, the United States Congress passed the FFPSA. The purpose of the bill is to provide investment further upstream to strengthen and preserve families and prevent children from entering the foster care system. The bill also better ensures children in foster care receive the most appropriate care for their individual needs in the least restrictive environment.
Implementation of FFPSA will help Texas attain its goals by 1) investing in results-proven programs and reducing child neglect and abuse fatalities; 2) promoting healthy biological families and supporting children with their relative families; 3) improving foster care to provide children with nurturing and safe foster families; and 4) ensuring children receive services to address their emotional, behavioral, and medical needs and heal their trauma.
Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act will have a significant positive effect on the lives of children and families in Texas.