A March 10 article published in the Houston Chronicle points to significant challenges facing foster care in Texas. The story notes that 186 kids in the state‘s care slept in Department of Family and Protective Services offices across the state last month due to a shortage of capacity in foster care. Addressing this shortage is among our top policy priorities. It is a crisis impacting kids that have experienced severe and compounding trauma.

The pandemic has made the capacity shortage worse. Child-serving organizations have struggled to maintain the staff needed to provide around-the-clock, in-person care. Some would-be foster families have chosen not to bring children into their homes.

But the strain on capacity also reflects issues that preceded the pandemic: For the last few years, the number of kids coming into care has been declining, and many of those who linger in care have complex needs and are staying in care longer. This is compounded by a foster care rate methodology that does not reflect the true needs of children and the costs of quality foster care services and workforce.

TACFS recently published our Rate Analysis and Recommendations. This report breaks down funding drivers, rate methodology recommendations, and areas the Legislature can maximize federal funding.

This isn‘t just about finding kids beds. This is also about making sure vulnerable children, youth and families who have experienced trauma have the continuum of services they need, and there are several direct steps the Legislature can take this session to address the driving factors behind the capacity challenge:

  • Invest in prevention and family preservation services to serve families that need help such as mental health, substance use, domestic violence, and other parenting supports. Fund the full cost of care and fund incentives for organizations to maintain/build foster home capacity and improve the quality of care and services.

  • Update the foster care rate methodology to reflect the true needs of children and costs of quality foster care services.

  • Support services for children and families that have moved to permanency or adoption.

  • Appropriately fund implementation of Community Based Care – where the work is in much closer proximity to the families being served.

None of us wants to keep hearing about kids sleeping in offices or kids who stay in foster care for years at a time. Fortunately, the Legislature can take steps now to address this crisis.