Panel: Texas foster families need more mental health resources and family support
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Adopted children in Texas need more mental health supports and foster care options, according to an expert panel convened to address the crisis in Texas’s child welfare system. the state.
Three national experts began evaluating the system late last year to offer solutions to the problem of hundreds of children sleeping in state office buildings, hotels and other unauthorized placements.
They filed their report on Monday, which notes that “children deserve to be mentally, emotionally and physically safe and supported by their families and in environments that allow them to heal, grow and thrive in normalized and non-restrictive environments”. He goes on to say that foster children should only be placed in large groups or congregate care facilities in rare cases, and the state must strengthen services and supports for entire families. Experts also stressed that they do not suggest any increased development or use of communal facilities in the state.
In November 2021, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) reported that 236 children had gone at least one day without a placement. At the end of the month, 16% of these children had been without a placement for 36 days or more.
Thirty-three per cent of children classified as ‘out of care’ in November require a specialist level of care; 34% need intensive care. Twenty-two percent of them had been discharged from mental hospitals with no plan for their next placement.
According to the report, people often attribute the increase in the number of children without care to the lack of providers willing to serve children with such high needs. The renunciation of rights by parents, due to their inability to access mental health services for their children, was also highlighted as a root cause, along with the pandemic, insufficient provider fees, a lack of coordination between agencies and stricter regulation of existing providers.
However, the report pointed out that “the main failure is the absence of a fully developed system of care, including home and community resources, targeted and well-resourced treatment, and appropriate placement services tailored to children’s needs”.
He goes on to say, “When asked, young people are very clear that they don’t want to go back to a group home and they want to be placed with their families.
Scott Lundy, president and CEO of Arrow Child and Family Ministries, said he’s always believed foster care helps children thrive, but he knows not all foster families are not equipped to care for a child with severe trauma or mental health issues.
In addition to traditional foster care and adoption services, Arrow is working to expand its Treatment Foster Care (TFC) program, where families receive special training in trauma-informed care. They also pair each family with a behavioral health specialist and licensed clinician as a social worker – often with a lower workload to allow them to pay more attention to each child’s needs.
“I can’t even explain how much I believe in this model and how much I believe this is the answer,” he said.
The expert panel reviewing the Texas system agreed, suggesting the state form a plan to expand these types of TFC programs over the next 60 days.
With around 50 families currently participating in the program, Lundy said he has seen success. He said their children placed at TFC had seen a 70 per cent chance of ‘reducing’ the level of care they needed; he compared that to 30% for many residential treatment facilities.
The panel also criticized the state for not prioritizing foster care, where children are placed with other relatives or extended family members to live. The report calls them “the backbone of child protection systems”.
In fact, experts noted that the Texas legislature allocated millions of dollars to foster care providers and capacity building, but said none of those funds were made available to caregivers. family.
“Despite the goal of supporting kinship care, caregivers in Texas (and many other states) are treated very differently from traditional foster parents, receiving less compensation and attention from managers. cases, having fewer rights, receiving less consideration from the courts and fewer services offered. In Texas, kinship service providers are paid $11.55 per day, compared to foster parent daily rates ranging from $47.37 at the moderate level to $92.43 at the intense level. » read the report.
The report encourages DFPS to immediately:
- Assess its current practice and policy on family care
- Adopt a relative investment strategy first and create practices to support it
- Request funds to increase foster care rates to match unrelated foster care rates
- Appropriate funding for a caregiver support pool from American Rescue Plan Act funds
- Expand mental health services or supportive families