The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) reported that major progress has been made in resolving problems within the foster care system.
The foster care system was considered a key priority of last year’s legislative session, deemed to be “broken” by the state.
“In January of 2017, there were a total of 9,764 [private foster] homes,” Texas Ranger Hank Whitman said. “In January of 2018, there were 10,718 – an increase of 11 percent.”
Huntsville and the surrounding areas that make up Walker County are no stranger to foster care. Part of the national problem is happening in Huntsville’s backyard. According to the DFPS, from December 2015- December 2017, there has been an average of about 60 children in foster care in Walker County at any given time.
Efforts from several Texas organizations, such as Orphan Care Solutions in Spring and Foster Angels in Austin, have sparked growth and reform in the foster care system, which many have argued for years performs worse than other states’ methods.
“Texas has a solemn responsibility to care for children removed from their homes due to neglect and abuse of all kinds, and last year the Legislature approved landmark changes in the foster care system,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
The faith-based communities of Texas have contributed by providing transportation services for doctors’ visits or court appointments, as well as home repairs for foster families. The decision by Gov. Greg Abbott to engage the faith communities has been met with positivity, allowing various churches and church-related groups to make a significant impact.
Texas Legislature approved a significant pay raise for Child Protective Services case workers, making a major difference in helping qualified case workers stay on the job, especially when the current job market allows other, less stressful opportunities.
“Our turnover rate is the lowest it has been in ten years,” Whitman said. “We are the lowest among all state agencies right now.”
Whitman says he expects to have a plan for continued improvement submitted to lawmakers in time for the 2019 session.