Child Protection Roundtable Formulates 85th Legislature Budget Goals
The Child Protection Roundtable – the collaboration of statewide research experts, advocates, and program providers created and chaired by TexProtects – spent the past year analyzing the challenges facing Texas’ child protection systems and formulating what it will cost to effectively ramp up prevention programs, alleviate the staffing crisis at Child Protective Services, and overhaul Texas’ broken foster care system (which was found by a federal judge in December to be endangering the children it is supposed to help).
In May, voting members of the Roundtable unanimously approved the set of Fiscal Years 2018-19 budget priorities for which we will fight in the 85th Texas Legislature. We have determined that the state absolutely must make a greater investment in Texas’ children, well above what it does now.
You’ll hear more about these priorities from us in the near future, but here are the highlights. These numbers represent the two-year increases that must be made above current investment levels:
• A $79.2 million increase toward prevention programs. Promotion of these programs is, of course, at the core of TexProtects’ mission – these programs include Home Visiting, Project HOPES, and Abusive Head Trauma Prevention. TexProtects also believes it is crucially important that Texas taxpayers get a good return on their investment – therefore, $2 million of this figure should go toward efficacy studies of existing programs, to ensure they are deserving of the state’s funding and weed out those that are not.
• A $373 million increase toward increased Child Protective Services staffing as well as better pay. This is critically needed, especially among badly overworked front-line staffers currently forced to carry caseloads well above what is considered safe for the at-risk children they serve. For example, it is common for frontline CPS investigators to carry loads of 30 cases or more; best practices call for an average of 12. Across all positions, almost 3,000 additional staff are needed.
• Support of kinship caregivers, especially grandparents living on a fixed income: An additional $83.7 million.
• A $121.1 million increase in provider rates to adequately recruit foster homes in high-demand areas, including appropriate trauma-informed services for children with challenging behaviors.
• A $129.1 million increase in purchased services, programs that assist families with substance abuse, domestic violence, and behavioral health problems to help them become stronger and hopefully keep them together.
• $10.9 million increase to help youth transitioning out of foster care. The aforementioned federal court decision found that the foster care system currently fails to adequately prepare many youth for the challenges they will face as they enter the adult world.
• $58 million for legal representation: We believe that all children in state care should have attorneys and a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
We believe that these increased investments are necessary to truly transform child protection in Texas – we do not need more tinkering-around-the-edges, so-called “reform.”