The goal for every child in care is to be with family, and if that’s not possible, with a foster family in a home setting. However, in some cases, it is necessary for a child to be in a setting that more effectively treats intensive mental or behavioral health needs, behaviors that cannot be managed in a home-like setting, or for crisis stabilization. The Texas Legislature has prioritized legislation, funding, and guidance for several Sessions that aims for high-quality, therapeutic settings with skilled professionals. 

TACFS has worked diligently with the Legislature and directly with our members to support these goals. Early in June, the Center cohosted a symposium on Strengthening Residential Care with the state’s SSCCs (regional CBC contractors). Residential providers from all over Texas came to Houston to collaborate, learn, and network in an effort to continue cultivation of best practices for quality residential care. 

At the symposium, SSCC leaders represented by SJRC/Belong CEO Tara Roussett, appealed to providers, “We need our RTCs to commit to seeing our youth through their trauma and all the related behaviors that go along with that trauma history. We invite you to the table to be a part of the solutions in Texas.” She continued, “We firmly believe that residential treatment should be short term so that we can together move the children to permanency and end the days of hopping from provider to provider. Our kids and our families deserve the best of us.” 

In addition to sharing best practices with each other relating to managing staff, supervision, elopement, etc., providers also received an update on what happened during the 88th Regular Session specifically regarding residential settings from TACFS CEO Katie Olse. 

“The statutory changes at the legislature do signal a path and direction for the future; quality, time-limited, for the right child,” Olse said. 

Watch highlights from that event: Highlights: Strengthening Therapeutic Care 

A Little Background 

Over the last several sessions, we’ve seen a continued focus on the quality and oversight of residential treatment from both a state and federal level. 

  • In 2018, Congress passed the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which broadly aimed to divert children from foster care and created a new standard of care for residential facilities in order to draw down federal funding. 
  • In 2019, Texas passed Senate Bill 781 (Kolkhorst), which encouraged the state to support the provider community in building capacity towards federal accreditation for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) in compliance with FFPSA. In addition, it strengthened the requirements necessary to obtain a license to open a new RTC facility and allowed for a public hearing process for license renewals. In 2021, Texas passed SB 1575 SB 1575 placed the federal requirements for QRTP oversight into statute and required a report from the Children’s Commission to examine oversight and best practices related to residential treatment center placements (including QRTP ones).  
  • In 2021, Texas also passed SB 1896, a large omnibus bill that included provisions related to the oversight of care and the development of treatment models of care. So, what’s the takeaway? The legislature cares about quality, appropriate oversight, appropriate enforcement, and wants CBC providers to take on more duties traditionally managed by the state.   

So, where does that leave Texas? 

Here’s what the Legislature did to impact residential care in the 88th Session: 

  • Fully funded rates through Foster Care Rate Modernization, which will aim to build out improved service packages to meet an individual child’s needs. 
  • Funded $5 million in federal FFTA funds to pilot the Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) process. This will support continued development of this model of care, which serves kids with complex needs, and aims to improve transition planning to a less-restrictive setting and provide after-care for the child or youth. 
  • Continued the supplemental rate increases appropriated to address capacity issues, and in particular to sustain existing quality capacity. 
  • Passed SB 1930 to require court review and allows for guardian/attorney ad litem input on placement in residential treatment centers and QRTPs. This will bring Texas’ placement review process for QRTPs in compliance with federal law.

View our 88th Regular Session Toolkit to find details and resources from this Legislative Session. TACFS’ Policy team created a bill tracker, bill summary, budget snapshot, and slide presentation.