Content Warning: Mentions of child abuse, suicide
When a child lacks a safe and stable living environment with their biological family, child protective services (CPS) takes temporary legal custody of them. Afterward, the biological guardians are permitted to participate in assessments that, once completed, will determine whether they are fit to continue raising their child or children. If they are not eligible to obtain custody, CPS places their children in the care of relatives or family friends. If there are no suitable and available caregivers close to the children, CPS transfers the children to a foster care facility.
However, the foster care system is problematic, especially in Texas, where there are many abused foster and immigrant children. Some children suffer more harm in state custody than they did before they entered and do not receive the necessary treatment to eliminate or manage their pain.
As a result of child abuse and neglect, foster kids develop mental illnesses — such as PTSD and depression — become dependent on alcohol or drugs, get involved in criminal activity and lose interest in education and other essential life activities.
In 2012, 20 foster children died of abuse and neglect in Bexar County. In the past two years, 23 foster children died because of the same issues. Clearly, after nearly a decade, Texas has not fixed its foster care system’s problem.
Many concerned people believe the bureaucracy, limited resources, strict procedures, lack of social workers and inadequate monthly payments to foster families hamper the foster care system and affect all children involved. Ultimately, the problem specifically lies under the Community-Based Care (CBC) system.
Background Information on the Texas Foster Care System
Some background is required to understand how the system has failed. In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 11 (CBC) to authorize the Texas Department Family and Protective Services to give foster child case management to Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCC). The importance of passing Senate Bill 11 (CBC) was to decrease state responsibility and privatize the foster care system — the Texas Legislature wanted the implementation of local, private and nonprofit foster care facilities and placement organizations to be more responsive to children’s needs.
CBC (SB 11) divides the state into 11 regions, each with 17 service areas and a nonprofit contractor (SSCC) for each service area. The SSCC goes through three stages: the placement, case management, and performance review of foster care children. In the eyes of the Texas government, the new adjustment is supposed to work because there are more procedures and more close-knit communities that can work together.
As a result of the decade-old MD v. Abbott case, the state has delegated responsibility for finding foster homes and other living arrangements for children in the system to the SSCCs. This also means that under the CBC, the state government oversees abuse and neglect investigations while relinquishing all the children’s care to nonprofit organizations.
This new change had been long-awaited because it was seen as the best way to end the systemic harm that children in the foster care system had to endure. The case stated that the frequent movement of foster care children between placements was unsafe. The results of the harmful transitions include improper supervision, a lack of proper assistance, separated siblings, denied family visitation, the state placing children in unsuitable settings and an ultimate failure to find suitable guardians for the children.
What’s Happening in the Texas Foster Care System Right Now?
Why does this situation still feel so pressing? It’s because the CBC system has not been fixing those same problems within the child welfare system.
The state failed to provide the proper infrastructure for these nonprofit organizations to care for foster children and it has also given little to no financial assistance or oversight of abuse and misconduct cases within the children’s homes.
Texas has done the bare minimum to investigate and relocate children in cases of abuse, many of which occur in San Antonio facilities. Texas has decided to leave these children and the organizations that house them to fend for themselves. While the outcome of this case was supposed to save the foster care system, it did the opposite.
The Child Abuse Cases
Federal Judge Janis Graham Jack maintains a public district court webpage that includes all 2020 reports from the decade-old MD v. Abbott case, as well as summaries of the past maltreatment in foster care cases. Provided by TexProtects, recent reports say that many more foster children require rescue and are coping with self-harm.
Drowning, medical neglect, Tylenol overdose, beatings and vehicular collision were just a few causes of death for Texas foster children in the state’s care.
One of the saddest deaths includes a 3-year-old boy with abusive foster parents. When the daycare staff confronted the toddler about his suspicious injuries, he would respond, “mommy hit me.” The daycare staff and caseworker made multiple referrals displaying concerns for the child’s safety before his passing. Yet, the DFPS did not remove him from his foster parents, and the CPI investigator did not interview anyone before his death. The toddler was later “found unresponsive on the floor, bleeding from his ear, with injuries suspicious for physical abuse.”
Other heartbreaking incidents include a suicidal 6-year-old girl bashing her head into a concrete wall and carving her nails into her body and a teenage girl swallowing laundry detergent and tying her bra around her neck. These are just two out of the many instances of suicidal kids who wanted to end their lives instead of tolerating the abuse they experienced.
How are children expected to live independently once they either age out of foster care or are adopted if they live in abusive environments? It is clear that the DFPS and HHS do not communicate, and there is inadequate oversight in foster care facilities, demonstrating the failure of the CBC system.
Ways We Can Help
We must raise awareness about the dangers that immigrant and foster children face, and social media influencers, journalists and storytellers should speak out.
TikTok influencer @iveyfamilyfarms is a great advocate who informs their audience about the foster care situation. Still, there aren’t enough people spreading the word to get representatives’ attention. We must urge all of our representatives and senators to finally correct the issue and assist these poor children by sending them the MD v. Abbott case’s second report of the monitors and two appendices (here are the main appendices and appendices to the second report).
If representatives from other states are informed, they might urge their fellow Texan representatives to do the right thing. Giving them the necessary information and putting the spotlight on them will hopefully put them under enough pressure to correct the situation.