Riverside, California 2021-09-15 12:11:50 –
Judge Janice Jack of the U.S. District Court said Tuesday afternoon in a 10-year proceeding against Texas over the failure of the foster parent system, it was time to “chase” and find a solution, anticipating a hearing. It ended without.
“All we want is to get together and find a solution,” Jack said. “I’m no longer interested in sanctions and stepping into fire. I hope these kids are safe.”
Jack suggested that stakeholders work with court monitors who have become experts in the subject area to identify solutions to ongoing problems that plague foster care. Her court clerk said the judge also canceled Wednesday’s continuation of the hearing.
For three hours, judges, foster child legal counsel in Texas, and state officials were discussing new discoveries from court-appointed observers. In detail, foster children spend the night, many are given the wrong or inappropriate doses of medication, are exposed to sexual abuse, engage in self-harm, are unlicensed and dangerous. The location (office, hotel, etc.) was included.
Jack asked if Paul Yetter, the lead lawyer on behalf of the child, would sit with his team and other state agencies to discuss potential solutions for the Texas Family Protection Services Department. I proposed a new approach.
The judge asked Yetter what he thought of the solution and made her decision. In the morning, she reiterated that many of the same issues have plagued foster care over the past decade, despite federal proceedings.
“I don’t know if continuing the hearing will help,” she said. “Do we need to head together to see if we can come up with something feasible?”
DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters said she “100% agreed” with the judge’s proposal, and other state officials also expressed support.
Jack said he wanted the governor’s approval and support for the plan before moving forward.
“The governor of the past, and this governor of the past and the legislators, have gone through a lot of research and came up with the same problem, the same exact problem,” she said. “If we all work on this, I think we can find ways to help keep these kids safe.”
The hearing on Tuesday began after the release of the latest report on the court monitor detailing the disturbing circumstances endured this year after state custody children were placed in unlicensed facilities.
According to the report, children in unlicensed locations were sometimes given the wrong medication, while other children did not take the prescribed medication for days. Investigators have found evidence of child-to-child sexual abuse. There is evidence that some children have fled and some have been in contact with sex traffickers. Untrained staff detained a 7-year-old child, and in some places security guards handcuffed the child.
Monitors also found that children with severe emotional disabilities hurt themselves during state custody and some of them were untreated. There is evidence that children cut themselves with sharp objects, lost consciousness, and tried to hang their necks until they ingested the cleaning solution.
Since last year, unlicensed placements have continued to skyrocket in Texas. Earlier this year, 501 children stayed at least one night in an unlicensed state-owned location, according to a new report. On average, children spent two consecutive weeks in an unlicensed arrangement, and one child spent 144 consecutive nights in such an arrangement.
In 2015, Jack ruled that the state violated the constitutional rights of foster parents and freed them from the risk of unjustified harm, leaving children “more often away from care than when they were admitted.” I was damaged. ” Since then, numerous hearings have been held in federal court, Jack has issued several orders aimed at overhauling the system, and the state has been found to despise those orders twice. The monitor acts as a monitor for the system and investigates harm to children in the system.
Yetter said he was looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the solution.
“We are cautiously optimistic. The safety of these children is our number one priority and so far everyone agrees that they are in dangerous and harmful places,” Yetter said. Said in a statement after the hearing. “The prospect of working with a real solution, especially with the blessing of the Governor, is the best way to move forward. We look forward to starting as soon as possible.”
After the recent closure of dozens of facilities, the system has lost hundreds of beds, especially those for children with highly specialized needs. Many of the closed facilities were initially enhanced for surveillance. This is a trial period that requires the state to scrutinize the operation of the facility and develop improvement plans.
In Texas, 485 licensed facilities provided foster placement between 2015 and 2020. Of these, 127 have been placed in advanced surveillance, accounting for more than a quarter of the facility, after accumulating numerous minimum standards violations in recent years, the report said. .. As of September 7, Texas’ child welfare system had nearly 29,000 children.
And while some foster parents say these closures were caused by court action, monitors argue that those actions are necessary.
“There is no doubt that there were serious child safety issues with the operations subject to enhanced surveillance,” the monitor wrote. In 2020 and 2021, the facility with increased surveillance said, “In the five years included in the analysis, a total of 631 proven allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children entrusted with their care, and Explained a minimum of 14,227 violations. 12,558 (88%) were against high, medium, high, or medium ranked minimum standards. “
Prior to the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Jack responded to allegations that increased surveillance and court actions were due to the crisis.
“Texas has closed these facilities because it has determined it is not safe for children,” she said. None of the closed ones were found to be safe, she said.
DFPS, which oversees the state’s foster parent system, said in its own report that the ministry did not condemn the court’s actions against the placement crisis. In an executive summary of the DFPS report signed by Commissioner Jaime Masters, authorities said placing children in unlicensed locations was a “last resort.” The Masters also say that agencies are struggling to meet the professional needs of their children, and pursuing an approach that keeps them with their families and leads to treatment while at home is part of the problem. Said it would help alleviate.
Court-appointed monitor reports detail many reports of children being harmed in these unlicensed facilities, which are often managed by “overwhelmed and untrained staff.” Said it was done.
According to the report, about the same number of foster children enter licensed group facilities or as much as unlicensed locations with foster parents — CPS offices, hotels, motels, and Spend the night elsewhere under suspicious supervision.
Monitors show that children in these unlicensed areas suffer from “substantial risks”, including physical and sexual abuse and neglect, exacerbating existing emotional, mental and physical health problems. He said he let him.
“By accommodating children in these unregulated environments, Texas assigns children to caregivers who are overloaded and not well trained to ensure their safety, and is unjustified of serious harm. We are at risk, “the monitor wrote.
According to the report, 86% of children without proper placement observed from January 1st to June 30th were teenagers, while the youngest child was one year old at the time of placement. Many children need special care due to past trauma and physical and mental needs.
However, the monitor states that the behavioral and psychological problems that children are suffering from are “frequently exacerbated by the very system aimed at protecting children.”
Since January 2020, the state has lost more than 1,600 beds due to foster care. Most of the beds came from surgery to accommodate and treat children in need.
Some of these children were moved out of state for care and moved to Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kansas. The Masters testified at a court hearing on Tuesday.
“We have run out of all the options we have for placement,” said the Masters.
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This article was originally published in the Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/14/texas-foster-care-children/.
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