When the Legislature met in 2021, headlines pointed to the growing number of children and youth— especially those with significant needs— sleeping in state offices and settings other than appropriate foster care placements. The Children Without Placements (CWOP) population had increased as the COVID-19 pandemic, among other significant factors, had contracted the capacity of the foster care system.

Legislators recognized this crisis, allocating $124 million to help stabilize the foster-care system and create new capacity that could meet the needs of children in care. Community-based nonprofits focused on putting those dollars to their best use, using innovative and collaborative approaches.

More than a year later, the number of children who lack appropriate placements has declined. In addition, networks of child-serving organizations are working together to find homes and treatment for children who have suffered unimaginable trauma. They are focused on keeping siblings together and growing the number of kids who receive foster care from members of their extended families, which is known as kinship care.

Still, more work remains to ensure appropriate foster care placements for all children and youth who need one. The Legislature can continue to invest in creating the additional capacity needed in the system — especially for older youth, children with siblings in foster care, and other populations who can be difficult to place. By investing in an updated rate structure that better reflects the true cost of care, the Legislature can incentivize better outcomes for children. The current rate methodology is outdated and does not cover the full cost of care, which makes it difficult for organizations to offer the full range of services often required by children and youth who have experienced trauma. The reality is that intensive services for children in foster care are expensive, but they are worth the investment. Funding that helps organizations address widespread workforce shortages will also help ensure more high-quality placements.

Early in the session, legislative leaders have signaled their continued commitment to Community-Based Care (CBC). CBC regions have had considerable success reducing the number of children who lack placements over the last couple of years, and the continued rollout of CBC to new parts of the state will help ensure access to needed services. With the continued expansion of CBC, an emphasis on helping kinship caregivers to succeed, and investments in modernized rates, legislators can continue to create more of the high-quality placements that the Texas foster care system needs.

Learn more about the TACFS policy priority around the High Quality Placements.