Foster Care Improvement Plan
Quality, Alignment, and Accountability
Every day, Texas serves tens of thousands of vulnerable children and families in the child welfare system. By the time children reach the foster care system, they have often endured severe trauma caused by abuse or neglect. In some instances, the child welfare system has failed them. A federal judge in a decade-long lawsuit has repeatedly reprimanded the state for failing to sufficiently reform the system, pointing to times when children were subjected to abusive and, at times, deadly conditions. These tragic outcomes are unacceptable.
But we also know Texas is full of dedicated, highly trained professionals and organizations committed to children, youth and families. TACFS members provide critical services including prevention services, family preservation, kinship care, foster care, adoption, and more. TACFS actively supports these organizations and works to fix problems in the foster care system and advance systemic reforms that reflect best practices and help organizations better meet children’s needs.
Briefly, here's what you need to know:
TACFS, through the Texas Center of Child and Family Studies, is expanding our training and technical assistance efforts. Trauma-informed trainings, strategic planning, community engagement, data analysis, and more.
We are working with organizations to develop individualized plans that emphasize high quality services and positive outcomes.
We are advocating on your behalf with state leadership when issues arise. Please continue to keep us informed.
We are connecting organizations to each other to collaborate and increase information sharing.
You can learn more in depth information about these initiatives below. If TACFS can offer you support, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2014, the child welfare system has been shaped by significant reform efforts at both them state and federal levels.
Ongoing implementation of state efforts such as Community Based Care (CBC) and federal legislation, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), demonstrate the commitment of elected officials to improving the system for traumatized children, but they also point to the often-shifting regulatory framework within which TACFS members operate.
In spite of challenges, we see an opportunity to realign services and care to better serve children, create more effective and efficient processes, and direct resources to kids with severe needs and organizations working to meet those needs.
TACFS and its member organizations are actively working toward continuous quality improvement and strongly support efforts to improve the care provided to Texas children, protect their health and safety, and produce the best clinical outcomes. TACFS has long been committed to these efforts, but the lawsuit has created an urgency that we cannot miss.
TACFS is enacting a systems improvement plan that will build on our existing efforts and support structure while concentrating our time, energy, and resources on meeting this unique moment in child welfare. Working with our state partners and our member organizations, we must seriously address the concerns raised in the lawsuit while also working toward continuous improvement at every level.
FOSTER CARE IN TEXAS
THE PATH FORWARD IS BUILT ON THREE CORE PRIORITIES
These priorities will guide child-serving organizations and foster families as they build communities of care for each child in the system. TACFS is working to fulfill these priorities and improve the system through training and education, collaboration, and advocacy.
We seek to reinforce community-based organizations so they may grow, thrive, and continue to serve Texas children, youth, and families.
A strong and healthy network of community-based service providers is fundamental to system improvement, and TACFS is committed to working with member organizations and agency partners to enact reforms where needed and build upon the many proven, effective practices that providers use each day.
Advance Best Practices in Residential Care
Using data from emerging research into best practices, child welfare professionals continue to strengthen and adapt methods for addressing the needs of children and families. In recent years, these practitioners have embraced continuous quality improvement, program evaluations, and data-informed practices to support the interventions children and families receive. As the needs and acuity of youth in the foster care system have risen, so too has the urgency surrounding the promotion and use of best practices.
Sharing Resources on proven clinical interventions with providers working with children and youth who have experience trauma
Providing Training Opportunities for providers and agency staff on evidence-based practices that improve outcomes for children and youth, including trainings for organizations and the development of specialized curricula
Expanding our Online Learning Center, which is an array of e-learning opportunities at a time of limited training resources.
Operational Support and Technical Assistance
Child welfare community organizations are continuously pushed to demonstrate their work is effective and their services are efficiently delivered. These demands come despite funding challenges, heavy regulation, and a constantly changing environment that requires flexibility. In response to an organization’s unique needs, TACFS offers operational support and technical assistance. These services are tailored to help organizations maximize their impact in their communities.
Clinical and Professional Coaching that helps organizations improve or expand programming
Technical Assistance to help organizations with continuous quality improvement, data-driven decision making, and strategic planning
Research and Program Evaluation to identify areas for improvement and elevate work that is making an impact
Training and Collaboration on issues such as managing budgets, measuring progress, building strong organizational cultures, developing corrective action plans, strategic planning, risk management, and other management issues
Understanding of, and response to, state and federal requirements.
Strategic Capacity Building & Placement Processes
Children entering the state’s care often have an enormous range of psychological and social difficulties due to the trauma they have suffered. Every part of the state’s system must work together to meet children in these emotionally fragile moments, and the system must have the capacity to put children in settings and situations that align with their individual needs.
Working with DFPS to increase capacity that aligns with the needs of children
Supporting Community-Led Initiatives and local systems of care
Providing Region-Specific Data and Research to leaders across the state so that each community is aware of challenges, gaps in services, and strengths as they seek improvements
Supporting Ongoing Regional CBC Readiness Efforts as they seek to identify gaps in service strengthen their local array
Making Ongoing Financial and Resource Investments to organizations struggling with the impact of COVID-19
Opportunities for Cross-System Collaborations
Children are best supported when their care and needs are well-communicated and understood by experts seeking to help. TACFS is committed to continuing to build strong local and statewide partnerships in the areas of the judicial system, medical and mental health, education, juvenile justice, workforce, and more.
We are working in conjunction with Star Health and other partners to grow capacity for children's behavioral health needs.
In partnership with the Texas Supreme Court Children’s Commission, we are working to use data in support of advancing positive permanency across the state.
Ongoing Dialogue and Problem Solving
This work constantly changes and evolves. Open communication among oversight agencies, state decision makers, and child-serving organizations creates better understanding of expectations and responses to those expectations. TACFS leaders and members will continue to work closely with DFPS and HHSC leadership to provide regular updates on activities, discuss issues, concerns and successes, and give feedback on policy changes.
Advocating for clear and equitable oversight.
With so many changing systems and policies, organizations are often caught in the middle of different oversight entities that do not always communicate or coordinate with each other. TACFS will provide on-the-ground insight and feedback to work toward improved and equitable accountability, helping agency officials and other decision makers better understand how proposed reforms would affect existing systems.
Clearly communicate to state leadership areas of duplicative processes, areas of confusion, and opportunities to clarify oversight functions.
Because TACFS works with such a diversity of members, we are able to take a broad view of how processes and oversight affect different types of organizations. Our network has the credibility and the network breadth to help shape the ways state leadership views individual organizations and the system as a whole.
TACFS will continue to...
Highlight competing or confusing oversight functions
Host Provider Calls, Webinars, and Other Opportunities to share information that helps providers know roles and responsibilities as well as who to contact for questions and concerns
Feature the Numerous Successes that occur every day within the foster care system and often go unrecognized
Recommended Agency Actions
Simply addressing changes required by the Court will not create an effective system.TACFS is taking and will continue to take the steps spelled out in order to achieve our priorities. We also hope to work with public agency officials and other partners to advance and implement the following recommendations, each of which will move us toward more effective oversight and better care for children and youth.
Thoughtful monitoring oversight
The process of improving quality of care in the system can greatly benefit when providers and the state work closely together. Clear alignment on what is not working, what is working, and necessary solutions is critical for systemic change to be successful. Together, the state and providers can:
Clearly Identify and explain expectations and measurables
Identify Ways to help underperforming providers improve
Create an Early Warning System that DFPS can use as a tool to identify organizations that need support, and
Ensure State Workers are Trained in the Latest Practices related to caring for children who have experienced trauma.
Clear communications and consistent expectations.
When programs are found to be lacking in performance, expectations for improvement should be clear, consistent and precise. Oversight agencies should work proactively with individual providers to identify timelines for improvement, articulate the consequences for a lack of improvement, and identify processes for deciding placement holds or contract terminations. Progress should be captured and reported to the court and to the greater provider community so that lessons can be learned.
Transparency in heightened monitoring and Facility Intervention Team Staffings (FITS).
Providers are uncertain about what it will mean to be on heightened monitoring. The process, to date, is opaque. DFPS and HHSC should work with child-serving organizations to communicate expectations. We encourage DFPS and HHSC to establish measures to assess organizations‘ implementation and to report back to the court monitors the level of effort and resources used to comply with heightened monitoring plans .
Due process for providers .
Oversight agencies should identify next steps and actions available to providers placed on Heightened Monitoring. Organizations should be provided a description of the reasons they are placed on Heightened Monitoring and it should be clearly defined how Heightened Monitoring decisions can be appealed. and who is involved from the various public agencies. Providers should be given a clear timeline for appeals to be heard.
TACFS and our members are committed to building upon the heroic work of child welfare organizations throughout the state and empowering our members to provide the best possible environment for children and families.
We know that our members share this commitment and continue to develop evidence-based programs and services to meet the unique needs of children who experienced severe trauma before entering the system. TACFS looks forward to working with our members and with our partners in state agencies to further improve the quality of care, to enhance alignment among stakeholders, and to create a more constructive system of accountability so that all of us can provide children the care and support they need.