TexProtects continues to follow the latest developments on the foster care lawsuit. For the first time since the lawsuit began, Governor Greg Abbott publicly stated at the beginning of this month that the state would cooperate and that he would work with legislators this session to get the funding necessary to be in compliance with Judge Janis Jack’s orders.
Both the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) included Exceptional Items for a total of almost $75 million above their base budgets to cover the expenses of the lawsuit. A supplemental request now increases that number to more than $126 million for the 2022-2023 biennium. In a session where state agencies have had to scale back spending and are trying to maintain service levels without cutting supports to children and families, finding $126 million in the Article II Health and Human Services budget will be no easy task.
For the sake of child safety, we are glad to see this shift in Governor Abbott’s approach to the lawsuit. It is also critical that Texas comply with the remedial orders ongoing from a financial perspective. Every possible fine and every dollar spent on this lawsuit, while necessary to keep kids in the system safe, is costing the state a lot of money. This has the potential of taking away necessary services for children and families from other areas of the agencies’ budgets and hinders opportunities to make smarter investments in new, innovative, and effective strategies.
Read the complete Dallas Morning News article here and check out TexProtects’ full statement on Governor Abbott’s public response.
In our last update in July 2020, we brought you up to speed on the findings in the Special Monitors report to Judge Jack, which showed how practices by both DFPS and HHSC were still placing the children in state custody at an unreasonable risk of harm. Since this time, the state has been held in contempt and threatened with hefty daily fines for not complying with more than a dozen of the Judge’s remedial orders, including the failure to comply with:
- Caseload sizes to ensure workers aren’t overwhelmed and can do optimal work;
- Timeliness of investigations;
- Communication both internally and externally with placements about safety issues; and
- Ensuring a system is in place to review a licensed provider’s history so that children are not placed in or remain in placements with significant histories of deficiencies that subject children to risk of harm.
Governor Abbott spoke out in December 2020 soon after these findings and directed both state agencies to comply.