Audit finds state lacks documented oversight of new foster care model

Source: Allie Morris, San Antonio Express-News, April 1, 2018

A recent audit found flaws in the state’s oversight of a new foster care model that further privatizes the system and is set to roll out in Bexar County soon. In the new model, a contractor manages foster care providers within a certain region, instead of the state. The Legislature approved expansion of the model last session as a way to improve the embattled foster care system, which is facing a long-running class-action lawsuit by foster children who claim they faced abuse, constant movement and overmedication. The state audit found the Department of Family and Protective Services conducted site visits to ensure contractor ACH Child and Family Services was in compliance. But the state didn’t have documentation to show whether it verified that ACH monitored all 107 foster care providers in its seven-county area, which includes Fort Worth, or whether their oversight was effective. In one instance, state auditors reported that ACH hadn’t monitored one foster care provider for more than 18 months as children continued being placed there. …

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New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System
Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

House approves Senate bill to expand foster care privatization
Source: Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, May 17, 2017

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. …

Battle may be looming over how quickly foster care bill outsources CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2017
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. … 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 Sen. 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. …

Lawmakers Take Up Bill to Outsource CPS to Non-profits
Source: RGV Proud, April 4, 2017
Lawmakers took up a bill Monday that would pass a large part of the state’s responsibility to watch over Texas’ most vulnerable population over to non-profit organizations.  House Bill 6 looks to privatize much of the state’s embattled Child Protective Services to implement what’s known as “community-based care.”  Authored by State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the latest version of HB 6 went before the House Committee on Health Services Monday morning. … The bill would essentially outsource the responsibilities of CPS caseworkers to social workers at non-profit organizations across the state. … No action was taken after public testimony Monday, HB 6 was left pending in the House Committee on Health Services.

State freezes bid to privatize foster care in northwest Texas
Source: Andrea Ball and Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, March 22, 2017

A much-heralded effort to privatize foster care in 30 northwest Texas counties is on hold while the state investigates whether the bidding process was compromised by the wife of the former inspector general. The Health and Human Services Commission has put its request for proposals for “foster care redesign” on pause, saying in a letter to bidders that the contract is on hold “due to a possible issue with the evaluation process.” Officials had anticipated awarding a contract in January. … The debacle surrounding the privatization contract involves Frianita Wilson, a purchasing director for Child Protective Services. Wilson is on administrative leave because officials say she was involved in the contract and that her husband — former inspector general Doug Wilson — works for a nonprofit that might benefit from the redesign contract. Last week Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith sent a letter informing lawmakers of an investigation into a “substantial procurement” that had not been awarded. The contract process had been halted, according to Smith. Smith asked in the letter that the Sunset Advisory Commission conduct an independent and thorough review of the contracting processes and procedures of the commission. Current inspector general Stuart Bowen is also investigating to see whether the contract process was tainted. …

Child welfare workers fear legislative push to outsource their jobs
Source: Marissa Evans, KHOU, March 16, 2017
Under House Bill 6 — part of a sweeping plan to revamp Texas’ child welfare system — the state would slowly create a “community-based care” model, which would allow contracted organizations to monitor children in foster care and adoptive homes and those who have been placed by the state into a relative’s home. That would include making sure children are settling into their new homes and their health needs are being met.  Some of that work is already done by private organizations. Former and current state caseworkers and advocates for children say more organizations doing case management could be problematic for both children and state employees. They worry about knowledgable state workers losing their jobs, contractors having trouble placing children with behavioral and mental health issues and not enough qualified nonprofits or local governments stepping up to help. …

Senate panel OKs far-ranging privatization of Texas CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2017

A Senate panel has endorsed a sweeping child welfare privatization measure that in future years could outsource most of what Child Protective Services does beyond initial investigations of child-maltreatment reports. Under the bill, Texas would embrace a new “community-based care” method for procuring beds and therapies for abused and neglected kids. It differs in at least two key respects from the “foster care redesign” approach that has produced some good initial results after more than two years of effort in Tarrant and six nearby counties:

  • Employees of a private, nonprofit entity would take over the job duties of CPS “conservatorship caseworkers.” Currently, the CPS employees work with foster children and their birth families and report on their progress to judges.
  • The nonprofit picked to run community-based care in a region also would do what CPS “kinship care” workers do — track children who’ve been removed from their homes and placed with relatives or family friends, not in foster care.

Other parts of the bill would require two regional pilots testing whether work done by a third cadre of CPS employees — “family-based safety services” caseworkers — also can successfully be privatized.

Senate GOP leaders have downplayed the scope of the privatization. … Still, if Schwertner’s bill becomes law, it potentially could threaten about 3,200 CPS caseworker jobs, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis. That’s nearly 55 percent of the approximately 5,800 caseworkers for whom agency leaders successfully sought big pay raises late last year. The various privatization pushes would have to extend statewide for so many to lose their jobs — something Senate GOP leaders have said is by no means a sure thing. In a brief description of his newly revised bill Wednesday, Schwertner made no mention of state workers’ job security. As was true in previous versions, though, his measure would require lead contractors for community-based care to give preference in hiring to CPS workers who lost their jobs because of the case management outsourcing. … Schwertner’s bill also would require local plans to be developed for increasing the foster-care system’s capacity. The state has been losing a class-action lawsuit over long-term foster care. … In his State of the State speech last month, Abbott made child protection issues one of four emergency items.

Judges, foster care providers clash over privatizing supervision of abused Texas kids
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, February 2, 2017

Texas family court judges clashed with foster care providers Thursday over a top senator’s proposal to further outsource abused children’s care. … At issue is whether Texas should let private contractors — which already provide 90 percent of foster care in the state — take over virtually all supervision of abused and neglected children after Child Protective Services completes its investigation and removes kids from homes. … As part of a larger push to inspire local communities to volunteer as foster parents and change state purchasing practices to achieve better results, bill author Sen. Charles Schwertner wants to outsource “case management.” Under his proposal, as more areas of the state move into a program called foster care redesign, the private providers’ social workers would take over the duties of CPS workers. The private workers — not state employees — would coordinate foster kids’ therapies, visit with birth families, write court reports and appear before judges. … McCown and Byrne said it would lead to huge cost overruns as the state — having dissolved its public workforce — would be at the mercy of private contractors who knew it couldn’t regroup quickly and would take advantage by jacking up prices. … Schwertner inserted into his bill quality assurance reviews and additional financial penalties to be imposed if vendors fail the children. He said he would keep massaging it, though he hopes his panel will vote to send it to the Senate floor in the next two weeks.

State Stumbles Forward with Foster Care Privatization
Source:Beth Cortez-Neavel, Observer, September 9, 2014

Is the state agency charged with guarding Texas’ abused kids trying to privatize services needlessly? The Department of Family and Protective Services continues to push forward on a plan to bring on more private companies—despite evidence that its effort to overhaul the state’s foster care system is faltering. Many advocates think recent turmoil with Providence Services Corporation, the first contractor tapped by the state to oversee a portion of the foster care system, suggests the experiment is already a failure. …. In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed a bill allowing DFPS to shift the administration of its more than 300 privately owned child placement agencies—responsible for recruiting and monitoring foster placements—to lead companies, like Providence. …. In June, the Texas Sunset Commission, which looks into the efficacy of state agencies, released an excoriating report on DFPS. The report noted that foster care redesign is a “risky endeavor” that has no long-term comprehensive plan. …

Privatization of foster care to expand
Source: Robert Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 15, 2014

Texas’ protective services chief said Tuesday that he intends to expand an ambitious privatization of foster care, despite warnings from some child advocates that he’s moving too fast. Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia defended his plan to change procurement and payments, which began in West Texas in August and is coming to the Fort Worth region this summer. …. The House Human Services Committee took testimony on the experimental approach, called foster care redesign. It puts one super-vendor in charge of running all the other contractors in a region. It also incorporates into contracts financial incentives for better performance…..

Foster Care Hearing Focuses on Accountability
Source: Hollie O’Connor, Texas Tribune, July 16, 2012

As state officials move forward on a redesign of the foster care system that outsources services to private contractors, some advocates and judges told a House Human Services Committee hearing Monday that the new model blurs the line on accountability…. Tentative contracts were given to Lutheran Social Services of the South, a nonprofit, and Providence Service Corporation of Texas, a for-profit company, last month. DFPS is still negotiating their final contracts, but hopes to have them finished by September. Eventually, the DFPS plans to have 11 contracts across the state….

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