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U.S. District judge questions Texas foster care leaders for ongoing issues related to children's safety

The recent watchdog report said more than 500 children spent at least one night in a non-licensed facility during the first half of 2021.
Credit: AlessandroPhoto / iStock

A U.S. District judge questioned Texas leaders about the state's current foster care system and the problems associated with it.

U.S. District Judge Janis Jack led an online hearing Tuesday that included legal counsel for foster children and state officials. Judge Jack is also overseeing a decade-long lawsuit against Texas for its foster care system.

The hearing took place due to new information that came from a report by independent court-appointed watchdogs. The report showed dangerous situations for foster children, which included kids getting wrong dosage of medicine, sexual abuse and improper supervision that led to suicide attempts.

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During the hearing, Judge Jack told the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that the state's foster care system is not working. She also said that everyone on the call needs to "get together" and start figuring out more specific answers to these foster care problems.

Judge Jack also said the state had violated the constitutional rights of Texas foster children because of where they are being placed.

The report said 501 children spent at least one night in a non-licensed facility during the first half of 2021. These places included caseworkers’ offices, hotels, churches and shelters. Many times, these placements lack trained caregivers and necessary physical and mental health services for the children.

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Since January 2020, the report said Texas has lost more than 1,600 beds, the majority of which came from operations that housed and treated children with high needs.

In response, state officials have been advocating for less strict monitoring of programs and facilities that qualify for enhanced oversight.

Paul Yetter, the attorney representing Texas foster children, released a statement Tuesday:

"We're cautiously optimistic. The safety of these children is our top priority, and right now everyone agrees that they are in dangerous, harmful placements. The prospect of working together on a real solution, especially with the blessing of the Governor, is the best path forward. I look forward to getting started as soon as possible."

Judge Jack said before she moves forward with a plan, she wants Governor Greg Abbott's blessing and for him to show his support for him as well.