For far too long, Child Protective Services has languished as a fetid morass, often endangering our most vulnerable kids.
Readers know the stories.
Hundreds of kids sleeping in CPS offices.
Botched cases that lead to child deaths.
Endangered children going weeks or months without CPS workers seeing them.
The high caseloads and turnover.
A foster care system so broken a federal judge has said it damages the kids it is supposed to serve and heal.
This is a crisis. Gov. Greg Abbott was right to call on state lawmakers to be bold in their efforts to fix this vital but troubled agency.
“If you do anything else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child,” Abbott said during his State of the State speech.
Texas is staring at a lean budget, but Abbott has proposed an additional $500 million for Child Protective Services.
The money is needed to address disparities in foster care, as well as improve technology and training.
Abbott’s call for additional funds follows emergency action from lawmakers late last year that gave significant raises to CPS workers and should lead to additional hiring.
Importantly, Abbott has exempted the Department of Family and Protective Services from his state hiring freeze.
The $500 million Abbott is seeking isn’t arbitrary. It’s what DFPS had requested for “exceptional items” in its 2018-19 Legislative budget request. Lawmakers had responded by following typical Texas tradition: underfunding the agency. Both the House and Senate initially budgeted about half of what DFPS requested.
Abbott is pushing, and giving lawmakers cover, to adequately fund the agency.
Beyond addressing funding, there are a number of ideas swirling at the Legislature that merit support.
One idea is addressing pay disparity in foster care. The state’s kinship program pays foster families a base of $693 a month to house a child in the system but pays extended family members who take in a child — say, a niece or a grandson — $500 a year. This makes no sense. An unexpected mouth to feed is unexpected, even if it’s family.
Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, has proposed paying families 50 to 75 percent of what traditional foster families receive. Why not go to 100 percent if fraud can be mitigated?
Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, has discussed making the Department of Family and Protective Services its own agency as opposed to just part of the massive Texas Health and Human Services. Such a change would lead to more scrutiny and accountability.
The push to better involve churches and other places of worship in the foster care system is commendable. Faith organizations are already interwoven with the agency, but they could be crucial in the effort to find more foster placements for kids, and provide increased donations such as clothing, diapers and school supplies.
Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, has been a real leader in improving Child Protective Services. His legislation, Senate Bill 11, could improve access to services, strengthen investigations and encourage nonprofit collaboration.
As these ideas are discussed, debated and changed, we encourage state lawmakers to follow Abbott’s call and put these vulnerable Texans first.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Gov. Abbott failed to make fixing Child Protective Services one of his emergency items.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.