The number of children and youth sleeping in state offices has surged due to a shortage of appropriate placements in the foster care system. Texas needs to create more capacity in the foster care system so these kids can receive the full range of services and care they need.

TACFS members and staff will provide an in-depth look at the capacity shortage and possible solutions during a symposium on Thursday, July 29. While the in-person limit for the event has been reached, the symposium will be available to view online for anyone who wants a greater understanding of this challenge.

Leading up to the symposium, and because Gov. Greg Abbott has called on the Legislature to provide funding for additional provider capacity, it is worth considering a few key points about how we got here, whom this crisis affects, and how the state can begin to enact solutions.

First, it’s important to understand that a confluence of factors has contributed to the placement shortage.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered trainings and recruitment, made many foster families reluctant to bring kids into their homes and limited the number of staff and kids who can safely be in a facility at any given time.
  • COVID-related delays in court hearings, home studies and other stops on the path to a permanent home have left more kids staying in care for longer.
  • Meanwhile, new requirements and regulations requiring time and resources for compliance have been put on organizations that provide foster care services.
  • Organizations, like many employers, are struggling to hire and retain fully qualified workers who can provide the array of services needed by kids who experienced severe trauma before they came into the system

Second, we know that the young Texans who do not have placements have substantial needs.

  • Children without placements are typically older youth.
  • Some 85 percent of these kids have had previous psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Many of these kids are coping with behaviors such as running away, self-harm, or aggression.
  • These kids need more than a bed. It’s imperative to find appropriate placements that can provide the support, supervision and therapeutic services they need.

Finally, investments are needed to appropriately serve kids without placements.

  • Effectively serving high-needs kids requires greater support, training, staff supervision
  • In the short term, flexible funding from state and/or federal sources can help organizations open up facilities, provide specialized trainings, and add needed staff
  • Leading up to the next legislative session, it will be critical to work toward a foster care rate methodology that better reflects kids’ needs and the ongoing stressors on the system.

This is a critical moment for young Texans who have suffered the trauma caused by abuse and neglect. We owe it to them and to the future of this state to strengthen the safety net for our states most vulnerable kids by investing in the services they need. To learn more, please tune in for our Capacity Symposium tomorrow, July 29. Virtual attendance is also available.