The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) contracts with licensed Child Placing Agencies (CPAs) and General Residential Operations (GRO) to provide residential child care services for children in its managing conservatorship. These organizations employ direct care staff who play a critical role in helping children in DFPS conservatorship achieve positive permanency outcomes. Just as with the DFPS Child Protective Services (CPS) workforce, an experienced, trained, and stable workforce at CPAs and GROs is associated with positive outcomes for children and families. Reduced turnover results in more contacts/visits with children and families, better service delivery, and improved safety, permanency, and well-being.
Overview of Texas Foster Care
DFPS contracts with licensed CPAs to provide residential child care services for children in its managing conservatorship. These entities provide care, supervision, assessment, training, education, and treatment services to meet the needs of these children. CPAs train foster and adoptive parents and find homes for children. CPAs receive payments from the state for the care of foster children of which a portion is passed to foster families. As of August 31, 2019, there were 387 CPAs licensed by HHSC (note this count includes branch offices). CPAs have a key role in the Texas child welfare system.
Importance of Child Welfare Direct Care Workforce
A well-established body of research supports the position that a supported, skilled, and informed workforce is central to improving safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system. Research shows a strong and tenured workforce is critical to high quality case decision making and family engagement. Reduced turnover of child welfare staff also results in improved outcomes through:
• More frequent contacts with children and families; and,
• Reduced number of placements (linked to improved permanency outcomes for children).
Despite the utmost importance of the foster care direct care workforce, many CPAs and GROs lack the funding they need to develop and sustain a skilled workforce. HHSC develops payment rates for the foster care program operated by DFPS. HHSC then authorizes DFPS to implement the payment rates. HHSC uses a methodology to develop proposed payment rates. Both the proposed and final rates are set below the allowable costs reported by foster care organizations, including CPAs and GROs. According to an analysis of foster care rates conducted by Deloitte Consulting, proposed rates are set by HHSC at approximately the 60th percentile of costs for all foster care organizations. Final rates are set based on direction from the Texas Legislature and may not necessarily stay at the 60th percentile.
Lack of Parity Between DFPS and Private Sector Child Welfare Workforce
DFPS and the Texas Legislature have invested in the CPS workforce out of recognition of the value of staff tenure and the cost of staff turnover (estimated to be $54,000 per employee lost). In response to the Texas Sunset Commission’s 2014 review, a 2014 Operational Review performed by The Stephen Group, and internally driven improvements, DFPS initiated “CPS Transformation,” which included a focus on improving recruitment and retention.
Fund Quality Investments in the Foster Care Direct Care Workforce
The need to strengthen and improve the quality and effectiveness of the foster care direct care workforce is well-recognized. A quality, effective workforce will, in turn, lead to better coordination and integration of services, more efficient use of public funds, and, most importantly, positive outcomes for children, youth, and families.
The Texas Legislature should make investments in the foster care direct care workforce through the following recommendations:
1. Provide $25.0 million in state and federal funds and include a related rider in the DFPS bill pattern to fully fund the staffing component of the rates and increased by $1.5 million to adjust for the cost impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Include a rider in HHSC’s bill pattern to consider a rate methodology for foster care that is inclusive of geographic differences and report to the Legislature on progress made to implement this recommendation.
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