Policy

Key Initiatives

Foster Care Capacity

A March 10 article published in the Houston Chronicle points to significant challenges facing foster care in Texas. The story notes that 186 kids in the state‘s care slept in Department of Family and Protective Services offices across the state last month due to a shortage of capacity in foster care. Addressing this shortage is among our top policy priorities. It is a crisis impacting kids that have experienced severe and compounding trauma.

The pandemic has made the capacity shortage worse. Child-serving organizations have struggled to maintain the staff needed to provide around-the-clock, in-person care. Some would-be foster families have chosen not to bring children into their homes.

But the strain on capacity also reflects issues that preceded the pandemic: For the last few years, the number of kids coming into care has been declining, and many of those who linger in care have complex needs and are staying in care longer. This is compounded by a foster care rate methodology that does not reflect the true needs of children and the costs of quality foster care services and workforce.

TACFS recently published our Rate Analysis and Recommendations. This report breaks down funding drivers, rate methodology recommendations, and areas the Legislature can maximize federal funding.

This isn‘t just about finding kids beds. This is also about making sure vulnerable children, youth and families who have experienced trauma have the continuum of services they need, and there are several direct steps the Legislature can take this session to address the driving factors behind the capacity challenge:

  • Invest in prevention and family preservation services to serve families that need help such as mental health, substance use, domestic violence, and other parenting supports. Fund the full cost of care and fund incentives for organizations to maintain/build foster home capacity and improve the quality of care and services.

  • Update the foster care rate methodology to reflect the true needs of children and costs of quality foster care services.

  • Support services for children and families that have moved to permanency or adoption.

  • Appropriately fund implementation of Community Based Care – where the work is in much closer proximity to the families being served.

Family First Prevention Services Act

The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 represents the most significant federal child welfare reform in over two decades. The provisions of the Family First Act are intended to prevent entries to foster care, reduce the use of group care placements in favor of family-like settings, and promote kinship care.

Prevention and Family Preservation Services

FFPSA establishes a strong federal emphasis on funding services to divert children at imminent risk of removal from entering foster care. FFPSA allows states to draw down Title IV-E funding for services for families of children at “imminent risk” of entering foster care. This includes substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, or in-home parent training. The federal funding available for prevention services under the Family First Act is restricted, however, to services designated by the federal government as evidence-based according a rigorous systematic review process for assessing research and assigning evidence ratings.

What's Next?

In the DFPS FFPSA Strategic Plan, the report highlights that there is opportunity for the state to expand services to families and keep kids safe at home — “DFPS has the opportunity to design a Texas-specific plan that allows our state to build on the positive momentum in the current system and to do so in a way that most benefits children and families in Texas.” However, under the current system, most services to families in this stage of care are free or low-cost community resources, resources may be limited based on availability or region. There are limited options for programs that can draw down IV-E funding under FFPSA.

Residential Services

Under FFPSA, there will be new requirements for which foster care placement types are eligible for federal funding. In order to encourage more placements in family-like settings and to address concerns about over-reliance on group residential care, the law creates a new setting called a qualified residential treatment program (QRTPs). Unless a group setting is designated a QRTP, the state will lose the federal funding match for the child after two weeks in that setting. To be a designated QRTP, the placement must be accredited, use a trauma-informed model, and have licensed or registered staff, be inclusive of the child’s family in planning and programming, and have a plan for after-care for at least six months upon a child’s discharge from the placement. Certain settings are excluded from this requirement, including: family foster homes; placements for pregnant or parenting youth; supervised independent living for youth 18+; Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTP) for youth with treatment needs; specialized placements for victims of sex trafficking; and, family based residential treatment facility for substance abuse.

What's Next?

The state supports the goal of FFPSA for children to be in least-restrictive settings, and decrease the use of congregate care settings whenever possible. However, while FFPSA does not disallow any placements currently utilized in Texas, it does limit what is IV-E eligible. Per the strategic plan, the loss of IV-E eligibility is projected to cost approximately $26 million per year. It is unclear the cost of QRTP implementation at this time. At this time, a QRTP Pilot is underway, but it is unclear how many children will be served and if the state will continue to provide funding or a rate to grow this capacity.

Kinship Navigator Programs

Funding under the Family First Act can also be used to implement kinship navigator programs, which are meant to provide enhanced support for relative caregivers to meet the needs of children placed in their care.

Community Based Care

Texas has long relied on mission-driven community organizations to provide direct services and care for at-risk children and families.  In 2017, the Legislature affirmed the state’s direction by passing Senate Bill 11 which created Community Based Care (CBC). CBC transforms the way foster care services are provided in Texas. CBC transfers functions related to foster care services from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)  to a lead non-profit  organization and its network of community organizations. CBC involves local stakeholders, local caregivers, and local communities to engage and collaborate with one another to meet the unique needs of their community. CBC allows for innovative care by providing communities with the flexibility, authority, and adaptability to improve services for children and their families. 

CBC includes many of the services that Child Protective Services (CPS) normally provides. This includes foster care, case management, kinship, and reunification services.  The lead, nonprofit organization in each designated geographic area across Texas creates a network of services, foster homes, and other living arrangements and, when ready, provides case management for each child as well. CPS and the lead organization collaborate to carefully manage the transition from traditional foster care to CBC to ensure service and care of children and families is not disrupted. 

Region 1 - The Texas Panhandle

In January 2020, St. Francis Ministries launched placement services for Region 1, a 40 county areas that includes Lubbock, Amarillo, and the Texas Panhandle. St. Francis has served more than 31,000 children in Texas and other states, and has experience nationally in CBC.

Go to St. Francis

Region 2 - Texoma/Big Country

2INgage brings the best of two experienced community, nonprofit organizations to serve our most vulnerable children and families, and is honored to have been selected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to provide case management and foster care placement and support services for children in the foster care system in Region 2 a 30 county area that includes Abilene and Wichita Falls. Texas DFPS Region 2 Resources

Go to 2Ingage

Region 3b - Fort Worth Area

Our Community. Our Kids (OCOK) is a division of ACH Child and Family Services, established in 2014 to begin providing Stage 1 CBC services in Region 3b, a seven-county area encompassing Tarrant County and Fort Worth. OCOK began providing Stage 2 case management services on March 2, 2020.

Go to OC-OK

Region 8a - San Antonio/Bexar County

The mission of Family Tapestry is to weave together our community to transform the foster care experience. Established in August 2018 by The Children‘s Shelter, Family Tapestry is the lead, nonprofit agency in the San Antonio/Bexar County area currently in Stage 1 of CBC.

Go to Family Tapestry

Interviews with CBC Leaders in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Interview with ACH Child and Family Ministries

Interview with 2Ingage

Interview with Family Tapestry

Saint Francis Ministries