The Texas House sponsor of the big foster-care bill signaled Monday he’s going to fight for his version of “community-based foster care,” including a slightly slower outsourcing of Child Protective Services workers’ duties.
Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank said in an interview that he made some concessions to the Senate by importing elements of the senators’ main foster-care bill on prevention and foster children’s medical care.
But on the key issue of changing how the state buys beds and therapies for foster children, Frank said that he wanted to keep his own bill’s approach to “community-based foster care.”
Specifically, he would delay transferring functions now performed by CPS “conservatorship caseworkers” to a regional lead contractor — either a private nonprofit or county government entity — by a year or more.
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The outsourcing, long sought by foster-care providers, would not happen until the lead contractor showed it successfully has taken over placing all new or existing foster kids in a region.
Under a Senate-passed bill by Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who runs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the state would simultaneously shift responsibility for both placements and case management to the contractor.
“We went with the House’s language,” Frank explained. “Negotiations haven’t happened. There have been a lot of discussions [and] we’ll meet somewhere betwixt and between.”
Frank said he copied a Senate provision that would require the state to use predictive analytics to help decide where to spend limited child-abuse-prevention dollars.
He also embraced Schwertner’s push to impose a much tighter deadline on a Medicaid managed-care company to give new foster children a medical exam — within three days, instead of the current deadline of 30 days.
Both Frank and Schwertner want to rename “foster care redesign,” a new method of procuring care for abused and neglected kids, as community-based care. While the current experiment keeps CPS conservatorship workers in the mix, the two Republicans’ bills would shift the state workers’ oversight of foster children to the regional lead contractor’s social workers.
In addition, the duties of CPS “kinship” caseworkers, who currently oversee placements with relatives, would be transferred to the lead contractor.
Also, in two pilot regions, duties of CPS “family-based safety services” workers also would be privatized.
Outsourcing pros, cons
Harrison Hiner, legislative director for the Texas State Employees Union, which has warned that half of current CPS workers eventually could lose their jobs to the proposed outsourcing, noted that Texas has a shaky history of social-services privatization.
“Our state has raised some red flags on our ability to really oversee and monitor a contract, particularly when the care of children is at stake,” he told the House Human Services Committee.
In the Fort Worth area, redesign has achieved good initial results for children, Hiner noted.
“That work was still done with case management workers at CPS,” he said.
But Scott Lundy of Spring-based Arrow Child and Family Ministries testified that the current system doesn’t serve children as well as it should.
Private foster-care providers don’t get to work with birth parents and duplicate much of the work of CPS conservatorship workers, he testified.
“We are limited in our ability to truly partner and provide innovative care,” he said. Lundy heads the provider trade group the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, which supports the outsourcing. He warned, though: “Make sure we fund it right.”
Committee Chairman Richard Raymond stressed that the privatization of case management wouldn’t affect most of Texas immediately because the Department of Family and Protective Services would take years to gradually roll out the proposed new system. Raymond, D-Laredo, is one of Frank’s 16 co-authors. Only two of them, Raymond and Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, are Democrats.