As Texas’ long-running struggle to find enough placements for foster care children persists, more than 100 kids were sent out of state last year.
A Michigan facility housing Texas foster care children was missing its front door while it was 28 degrees outside and there hadn’t been indoor heat for 24 hours.
Staff didn’t make calls to get either the heat restored or the door fixed. They also didn’t attempt to move the children or give them blankets or jackets.
That’s just one of the out-of-state facilities where Texas recently sent 106 foster children, spending millions, after failing to find suitable placements in Texas, according to a new report from federal court-appointed monitors who act as watchdogs for the system.
A federal judge this week blasted state officials over this practice and once again threatened to issue financial sanctions against Texas for its lack of reform. The hearing — and threats of more penalties — were part of a yearslong lawsuit, which found Texas was violating the constitutional rights of foster children.
While noting there were “some bright spots,” U.S. District Judge Janis Jack criticized Department of Family and Protective Services officials over their care of children within the system, high workloads on individual caseworkers, ongoing placement woes and low COVID-19 vaccination rates among youth.
Some of the issues persist more than two years after Jack ordered reforms, she said, and she threatened to levy fines against the DFPS and to hold it in contempt of the court — which she has done twice already.
“It looks like we’re just going from bad to worse,” Jack said.
Photo: Portraits of adoptable children on display at the Child Protective Services office in Austin in 2019. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune