The problems in Texas foster care persist, as does the federal court case involving children without places to go. The parties now have agreed to a panel of three experts, who are supposed to learn everything about this complex problem and provide recommendations in less than two months.
The State of Texas already has issued a report about children without placement (CWOP), noting that:
Youth in CWOP tend to be older (13-17 years of age), have higher acuity needs, require a specialized or intense level of care, and are almost evenly distributed between males and females. Commonly, youth in CWOP have experienced prior psychiatric hospitalizations; a history of running away; self-harm, suicidal ideation, physical aggression/assault, sexual victimization and/or sexual aggression.
These are not children who can live in just any foster home. They have serious issues that require specialized treatment. Yet, Texas is losing specialized treatment facilities and caseworkers. The treatment programs described the risks that they face in accepting difficult placements:
In light of these challenges, over the last year, providers have expressed increasing hesitation to continue accepting youth into their care who have complex treatment needs. Specifically, providers have noted that youth’s behaviors sometimes necessitate physical interventions, which may lead to additional investigations and potentially, RTB findings. Such findings are issued against individuals and can be career ending, as operations may not employ individuals with upheld RTB findings without potentially incurring an adverse licensing action. Reason to believe findings are also among the most heavily weighted actions and can lead to an intent to revoke the provider’s license and/or contract termination.
Turnover in caseworkers is a problem, too, caused in some degree by the challenges of working with children with severe trauma symptoms:
According to exit surveys CVS caseworkers submitted during 2021, 86% cited work-related stress as a reason for terminating their employment (up from 40% in 2020); 43% cited safety concerns (up from 23% in 2020) and 35% cited inadequate training (up from 14% in 2020).
Texas foster care faces a complex problem with a lot of layers. I wish the expert panel well, but there will be no simple solution. There are not many people willing to put their careers on the line to care for violent teens, no matter how much you pay them. Foster parents cannot be expected to put their families at risk, and there are precious few lay people with the patience and training to help these children. Finding a solution will require more than throwing money at the problem, no matter how hard the attorneys in the case want to believe otherwise.