Day: October 23, 2007

child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, education, family, foster care
How Is The Texas Foster Care System?
Home Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller  

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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Contact: Mark Sanders 512-463-4070

Comptroller Strayhorn Laments “Forgotten Children”

In State’s Foster Care System, Outlines Massive Overhaul

Replace State Caseworkers with Enforcement Staff, Yank Licenses of Poor Caregivers, Bring Care Standards to Humane Levels

(Austin)–Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today called for a massive overhaul of the state’s foster care system in a special report, “Forgotten Children,” which details a widespread crisis in Texas’ foster care system.

Photos available Outdoor Urinal at Therapeutic Camp (1MB pdf) Children’s Shoes (1MB pdf) Open Fire Pit and Sleeping Quarters (1MB pdf)

“They are everybody’s children and nobody’s children,” Strayhorn said. “They are the forgotten children in the foster care system. Some of them find homes with caring foster parents, or in treatment centers with experienced and caring providers, and some do not. Some children have been moved among 30, 40, or even more all-too-temporary ‘homes.’ Some have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused while in the system; some have run away and joined the ranks of the missing. A few have even died at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

“This report gives these children something they need — a voice,” she said. “This investigation turned this One Tough Grandma into One Heartbroken Grandma.”

“The truth is that some of these children are no better off in the care of the state than they were in the hands of abusive and negligent parents,” Strayhorn said.

Among the dozens of recommendations are:

  • Eliminate the inefficient dual system of foster care — one that is run by the state — creating a conflict of interest in which the agency regulates itself.
  • Direct and redirect $193.9 million in savings to better care for children by replacing state caseworkers with independent oversight enforcement staff.
  • Move, immediately, children out of all therapeutic camps that do not meet licensing standards for Permanent Therapeutic Camps.
  • Raise standards across the board to humane levels.
  • Revoke the licenses of facilities that have ongoing problems affecting the health, safety and well being of children.
  • Educate foster care children about free higher education tuition eligibility.
  • Develop a Foster Grandma and Foster Grandpa program to mentor and support the children.

“I am appalled at the conditions too many of our foster children must endure,” Strayhorn said. “I challenge any defender of the current system’s status quo to put their child or their grandchild in some of the places I’ve seen for one day, much less for a lifetime.”

 

Responsibility for the broken foster care system rests with state government and the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS), now called the Department of Family and Protective Services.

In fiscal 2003 alone, 26,133 children were in foster care. The state pays from $20 per day per child all the way up to $277 per day for a child with complex needs.

“The agency tolerates vast disparities in the quality of the services it purchases,” Strayhorn said. “It uses taxpayer dollars inefficiently and fails to take advantage of federal funding. It offers caregivers a perverse financial incentive to keep children in expensive, restrictive placements.

“I saw children on alarming amounts of psychotropic medications and children who have not seen their caseworker in months,” she said.

“We must end the current system that has the fox guarding the hen house,” Strayhorn said. “We cannot tolerate a system where regulators regulate themselves.”

Problems in DPRS include inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, inadequate licensing and contracting standards, ineffective investigations, heavy caseloads and high employee turnover, which prevent the agency from closely watching over the children in their care.

“I saw filthy living conditions, make-shift outhouses, unsanitary food storage, in so-called outdoor camps where children must sleep in sleeping bags – no walls, no fans, no heat – for months and months, and in many cases, year after year. That’s not care. That’s cruelty. That’s not educating. That’s endangering,” Strayhorn said.

Strayhorn’s report uncovers the harsh realities of the current foster care system and makes key recommendations aimed at improving the entire system. She recommends that the state raise the bar on quality, make the foster care system more accountable, ensure the health and safety of all foster care children, and provide a brighter future for foster children.

Strayhorn said she did find facilities that did treat children well.

“In each and every instance where children were getting the best care, the care givers are working closely and openly with the community,” Strayhorn said. “Each facility needs that close relationship, operating in the sunshine, and support from the communities they serve. Without that relationship, the children suffer.”

“It has been said that any society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members. My investigation shows that Texas can and must be judged harshly,” Strayhorn said. “Foster care in this state has been studied time and time again; reports are issued, promises are made, and the children continue to suffer. That’s unacceptable.”

Strayhorn said she planned to monitor changes made, or not made, as a result of this special report and “for the sake of our forgotten children, I will report back to the people of Texas, in six weeks and six months and as long as it takes to fix this broken system and save all of our children.”

–30–


SOURCE: Susan Combs Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Window on State Government
child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, family, foster care, government, system failure
transcript of audio visit – CPS ABUSE

The following visit took place December 2004 at a Texas CPS Children’s Advocacy Center between an 8 year old child and his mother.

This child’s case was ruled out for physical abuse at his natural home, but the same cannot be said for his foster home. Nevertheless he had been removed and placed in foster care where he was…actually… abused…

The day before this visit, the mother arrived on Tuesday, her normally scheduled visitation day. The mother was left waiting in the lobby for over an hour before the CPS worker came out to inform her that the visit would not be taking place because the foster family “forgot to bring the child.”

The caseworker apologized and stated it would be another two weeks before a visit would take place due to the holidays (it was 3 days before Christmas). This was unacceptable to the mother. The mother refused to leave the facility without answers, knowing that her child would not have let the foster parents forget to take him to see her. Finally, the CPS worker reluctantly agreed to a special visit the next morning., at which time the mother brought a tape recorder.

The child arrived covered in blood with a black eye, heavily medicated and carrying a realistic looking capgun in his pocket. The gun was realistic enough that if a parent carried it into the facility, that parent would be arrested. If it had been carried into an airport, flights would be shut down. Still this child had it in his pocket, given to him by the foster family.

Upon questioning throughout this visit, the mother learns that the child had been told by the foster family that he didn’t go to the visit the day before because the mother did not show up. That simply was not true. The foster family “forgetting to bring him” wasn’t true either.

Were they trying to cover up his injuries…..?

The child was, after this visit, removed from that home, and placed in kinship care, however, the mother only saw her child one more time after this visit….

Ruled out for physical abuse at home, taken and placed in state’s care to be abused… and then his injuries attempted to be covered up…. child protective services …? protecting who?

Its been nearly 5 years since this incident occured.

The case has been closed for some time now, but nobody was ever held accountable for the abuse against this child, nor to the family for the suffering it caused. The mother has not seen the child in over 4 years, and remember – no abuse had occurred at home. The mother was ruled out  for abuse – the mother ‘s administrative review sustained a finding that the mother had a history of a drug use and was uncooperative with a non-conforming attitude towards the system; but no injuries to the child.

In fact, the caseworker herself states that the mother interacts appropriately with the child, that the case is not so much a case of child abuse, but rather an ongoing custody battle, and in the child’s interview with the social worker the child specifically states that he is not abused, unhappy, harmed, afraid, or otherwise feels in danger with his mom.

4 years since she’s seen him.

Now its time for the truth.

Click here to listen to the audio recording as you read the transcripts below.

TRANSCRIPTS

mother: hey you…hi baby

child: i bought it

mother: you bought it?

mother: <gasp> what happened to your eye??

child: something really horrible

mother: what happened baby?

child: i was throwing rocks into the creek and my foster brothers hit me in the eye with the rocks

mother: when did this happen?

child: a few days ago

mother: did you go to the doctor?

child: my foster father was in the army and he knew what to gave me a butterfly bandaid on it and put stuff on it

mother: can you see ok?

child: yeah, except this eye’s still a little blurry

mother: look up ..no look up with your eye not with your whole head

mother: was it an accident?

child: nuh uh (indicating a negative response:ie.no) they were throwing rocks straight at me

mother: who?

child: my foster brothers

mother: it looks like you had a bloody nose

child: i didn’t

mother: no you have blood in your nose

child: i do?

mother (to cps worker): he has blood in his nose

child: i do?

cps worker: I didnt see

mother: come here

child: probably because of the…its so cold outside

cps worker: mine are a little dry too

child: i have in my pocket there’s this really cool capgun i got

child: i have it in my pocket …you know whats really cool about it, it sounds like a real gun its really loud

mother: there’s blood on your shirt

child: this is water

mother: no this is blood

child: it is?

mother: water is not that color

child: i didn’t know my nose was bleeding

mother (to cps worker): are they gonna do something about removing him from these kids if they’re throwing rocks at him?

cps worker: i have no idea

child: Pam said that i need to get along with them

mother: no, not if he’s got a black eye from rocks

cps worker: I have… i’m not… i don’t know anything ..my only time is transporting so..i don’t know…

child: its a fake gun

mother: but you know i don’t let you play with guns

child: its fake

mother: i don’t care…here…eat your food

mother: Merry christmas baby, i know you’re…I love you …I love you