Judge in foster care case orders more effort


Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Corpus Christi federal judge who last year declared the Texas foster care system unconstitutional, saying children “almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered,” is boosting resources for investigators seeking solutions and cracked the whip on them to produce results.

Meanwhile, a group of more than 60 elected officials, legislative staff members, nonprofit representatives and foundation executives has met in Fort Worth to join the push for solutions, a report on the meeting prepared by the North Texas Community Foundation says.

Texas has about 17,000 children in its care. The Legislature must fix the system’s dire problems.

In December, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered the system overhauled. She immediately halted placement of children in group homes that lack 24-hour supervision, noting that some children had been victims of rape and abuse.

Earlier this year, she put two special masters in charge of the foster care system.

In comments released Monday, Jack said “not enough time has been dedicated” to finding the right solutions.

She boosted the special masters’ investigative team to nine members instead of six and ordered them to nearly double the time they expect to spend on the case between now and September, when they are supposed to report findings to the judge. The investigation is expected to cost the state $600,000.

The North Texas Community Foundation, along with the Rees-Jones Foundation and the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, aims to raise awareness of one model foster care solution, the “Our Community Our Kids” effort from Fort Worth’s ACH Child and Family Services, formerly All Church Home.

ACH, as part of a now-stalled state effort called Foster Care Redesign, coordinates and supervises foster care services in a seven-county area that includes Tarrant County.

It is the only such provider in the state, and funding for its three-year state contract has fallen far short of covering expenses. The ACH board has agreed to raise private funds to cover remaining costs, nearly $6 million.

The nonprofit has reported encouraging results in increasing the number of licensed foster care homes and beds, placing children near their homes and keeping kids in safe, stable placements.