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Federal Government to Step In to Help State's Ailing Foster Care System

As practitioners of family law – which necessarily requires a keen awareness of issues impacting parents and children – we remain steadfastly dedicated to keeping abreast of advancements in applicable Texas and federal laws. In December, a federal judge issued a startling ruling concerning the current status of the foster care system in Texas – citing the system as violative of the constitutional rights of children. In a gut-wrenching opinion, the U.S. District Court in Corpus Cristi stated as follows:

Years of abuse, neglect and shuttling between inappropriate placements across the state has created a population that cannot contribute to society, and proves a continued strain on the government through welfare, incarceration or otherwise.

The ruling came approximately one year following the filing of a lawsuit against the state’s foster care system by child welfare advocates who decried the deplorable conditions many children were allegedly forced to endure. Specifically, the lawsuit targeted children placed in long-term foster care arrangements in the state, and argued that caseworkers are assigned too many children to properly monitor their progress. Moreover, children were allegedly placed in homes too far away from their families, and were not receiving appropriate supervision – especially in group homes lacking round-the-clock awake monitoring.

As a result of the ruling, a Special Master will be appointed to oversee the mandatory changes imposed by the District Court judge. As part of the process, the system must implement a complete overhaul, including mandatory maximum caseloads for workers across all 254 Texas counties. Moreover, children must have private access to their caseworker, and counties must implement services for children on the brink of aging out of the system.

Currently, Texas maintains one of the largest child welfare teams in the United States, with 8,000 full-time employees and a $1.2 billion budget.

If you are facing a difficult child custody or visitation situation, please do not hesitate to contact Stinson Moyle, PLLC today: (512) 948-3688.