Texas Lawmakers Look to Non-profits to Fix CPS-foster care

AUSTIN, Texas (KTAB) - Proposals from state lawmakers suggest the best way to overhaul the state’s Child Protective Services Division is to let not-for-profit organizations take over some of the duties of CPS workers.

Senate Bill 11 is on the legislative fast track to implement broad reforms and privatize parts of the state’s foster care system.

“We spend our money on broken families,” said State Sen. Charles Perry, “There is never going to be enough money.”

The Lubbock Republican said he could cut the state's budget in half and save Texas more than $50 billion a year, if he could fix broken families.

“Kids are damaged in these situations that are really unspeakable stuff that happens,” Perry said.

To overhaul the state’s struggling Child Protective Services Agency, lawmakers propose a new community-based care method to help abused and neglected children in Texas.

“I really think not for profits that have a child welfare mission at heart would be the best organization to help with the plan of care for that child,” said State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.

Under SB 11, the state contracts with non-profit or faith-based organizations to take over its responsibility as a child’s guardian.

“I think it’s probably best done and the community level rather than it being centralized in Austin,” said Schwertner. The lead author of the bill, Schwertner referred to the current system as “a cookie cutter, one-size fits all case management.”

The State Senate Committee on Health and Human Services passed the bill with a unanimous, bipartisan vote Wednesday to advance SB 11 to a full senate vote.

“I think it’s going to pass overwhelmingly on the floor,” said Schwertner, Chairman of the HHS Senate Committee.

Critics are concerned state contracts could create a financial conflict of interest, which could undermine the best interests of children. 

“There’s a number of safe guards and checks and balances that I think really alleviate the concerns regarding the conflicts of interest,” Schwertner said.

Along with contractual obligations, the bill includes a quality oversight division within the state’s Department of Family Protective Services to monitor contracted organizations.

The Texas House is working on similar bills that propose broad reforms to CPS and partially privatizing the state’s foster care system.

State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, a lot of faith-based organizations in his home district already provide the necessary services for foster placement.

“In West Texas, they are the ones that are the big players in this and so what we are going to see is their historic role is going to be continued going forward,” Burrows said.

“Central to any sort of redesign that we do, they’ve got to be part of the solution,” said Burrows.  Opponents argue CPS caseworkers could do the job, if properly funded.

“You can’t fix that need with just money from a top down approach,” said Sen. Perry. “It’s going to take a boots on the ground, bottom up approach with community support.”

Bills in both chambers include a practice known as kinship care—non-profits in charge of community-based care would work to place children with relatives or family friends, not foster care.

Governor Greg Abbott named child protection as one of the four emergency items, allowing lawmakers to take action earlier in the session.

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