Legislators took important steps in 2021 to support foster care for children with high needs and to build capacity so there would be more placements for children in the system. Since then, real progress has been made, but the system’s funding needs persist.
It is vital that the 88th Legislature continue to make investments that will help community-based organizations build and deliver the range of services that children and youth in foster care need.
In a 2021 special session, legislators funded $70 million for supplemental foster care payments for children with high needs. They also put $54 million ($34 million for Community Based Care, $20 million in Legacy regions) toward capacity-building, and directed DFPS and HHSC to develop an alternative rate reimbursement methodology.
This capacity funding is working. It has helped to reduce the number of Children Without Placements (CWOP) and to ensure that more children in the foster care system — especially those with higher needs — are getting important services. In Community Based Care regions, the number of Children Without Placements has been few to none since June 2022. This funding is working, and more high-quality services are being built, including treatment foster care, better support for kinship families, and crisis stabilization units. In order to continue stabilizing the system and create the capacity needed to meet demand, the Legislature should maintain and build upon the funding provided two years ago.
The system continues to face considerable obstacles, from a shortage of staff who are qualified for the unique and challenging work of providing care to continued capacity issues. Already, rates do not match the cost of high-quality care, as the state’s recent report on rate modernization demonstrated. Fortunately, the House and Senate recognized this need and budgets maintain funding for the enhanced foster care payments for children with high needs.
However, gains made in the 87th Legislature through capacity building funding and progressing rate modernization are critical to continue. If the Legislature does not maintain and add to the funding that was provided in the 2021 special session, efforts to add capacity and stabilize the foster care system will take a major step backwards. The result would be greater instability in the system and a shortage of the range of services that are necessary for children and youth in foster care.
In addition to funding enhanced rates, legislators should:
- Fully implement Foster Care Rate Modernization including funds to support the transition to new service models.
- Continue foster care capacity building funds to continue stabilizing the foster care system until rate modernization can be fully implemented.