Governor’s Proposed Budget Spotlights Foster Care

Governor Greg Abbott released a budget proposal on Friday that prioritizes a number of needed steps to continue improving the child welfare system in Texas.

While the legislative branch will write what will ultimately become the state’s budget for the next two years, the Governor has considerable say in the process. His budget showcases issues that he believes are most important to fund and can often provide guidance to legislators as they work toward a product the Governor can sign into law when the legislative session ends.

There is much to be encouraged by in Governor Abbott’s plan, including:

  • Increased capacity of the foster care system. TACFS has been calling for the state to make investments needed to make more foster-care placements available, especially as the pandemic has taken a unique toll on the capacity of the system. Governor Abbott recommends that the Legislature “find opportunities to expand the capacity of high-quality providers, which could include increasing payments for foster parents as well as for general residential operations.”

  • Community-Based Care (CBC). Governor Abbott praises the transition to CBC, saying the locally driven model of care “has made clear that when communities take ownership of their most vulnerable children, better outcomes are achieved.” CBC has been implemented in four regions of the state and the Governor is calling for its continued expansion.

  • Investing in behavioral health needs. In 2019, the Legislature created the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to foster collaboration among state medical schools, improve early identification and access to mental health services, and address psychiatry workforce issues. Governor Abbott is recommending the state continue to make investments in the Consortium and other behavioral health programs.

  • Lawsuit compliance. The Governor supports funding the steps needed to comply with a long-running federal lawsuit over the foster care system. He also calls for the transfer of the residential child care licensing function from the Health and Human Services Commission to the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Again, there is a long way to go in the budget-writing process, but it is helpful to see that Governor Abbott recognizes and prioritizes a number of ways to strengthen child welfare. In addition to several of the issues raised by the governor, we know that COVID-19 and ongoing compliance issues remain significant and impact the strength and resilience of the system. We are continuing to advocate on these needs at the Capitol.