Senate Bill 1896, a sweeping reform of the state’s foster care system, was authored and passed by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Lois Kolkhorst. SB 1896 provides needed system reforms, aims to improve quality, and and addresses many issues raised through both the federal foster care lawsuit and the current capacity crisis. Read more about specific provisions and next steps below.
Requires HHSC, in collaboration with DFPS and SSCCs, to develop a plan for increasing capacity—with particular focus on children with mental and behavioral health issues and requires the agency to develop reserve capacity.
Directs DFPS and HHSC to create a provisional license for kinship care
Allows new flexibility for Treatment Foster Care (TFC): removes child and youth age restrictions (currently serves age 10 and under), allows increased time for a youth to stay in a TFC placement (currently restricted to 6-9 months), allows a single parent to be a TFC placement, and requires transition planning for a subsequent placement to begin at least 30 days after the child is placed in TFC to work to develop less restrictive settings and reduce disruptions.
Directs DFPS to develop capacity to better serve human trafficking survivors or those at-risk of trafficking and are eligible settings under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), in particular those that include: trauma-informed care model, defined programming for trafficking survivors or those at-risk, policies to minimize risk such as runaway behaviors, & case management services.
Requires operations to submit treatment models to HHSC on issuance and renewal of license and the operation to assess the model’s effectiveness. Models may be changed after notifying commission of the change and submitting a new treatment model. Model must include:
Manner in which treatment goals will be individualized and identified for each child
Method the operation will use to measure the effectiveness of each treatment goal for the child
Actions the operation will take if the treatment goals are not met
Method the operation will use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment model
Requires general residential operations to develop transition plans for children in their care longer than 6 months
Requires HHSC to implement additional license types (continuum of care operation, specialized child- care home, cottage home operation) by 2024
Community Based Care (CBC)
Creates Office of Community Based Care Transition to oversee ongoing implementation of CBC — this office will be administratively attached to DFPS but is a direct report to Governor
Creates Joint Legislative Oversight Committee which will also have oversight of the Office of CBC Transition
Expands CBC definition to include preventing foster care, reunification and family preservation
Directs DFPS and SSCCs to work with community stakeholders to explore volunteer mentors for foster children in congregate care settings and report back to the Legislature.
Develops an early warning system for “at-risk” providers in order to provide technical assistance prior to a crisis, minimize violations and citations, and support quality capacity
Limits placements into newly-opened facilities until they can show sustained compliance with licensing
Requires STAR Health contract to have adequate capacity for meeting mental and behavioral health needs of foster children and youth
HHSC must look at STAR Health coordination and evaluation of utilization, as well as a telehealth pilot with SSCC regions; must also consider and make recommendations around federal funding options for children with mental and behavioral health diagnoses
Reinforces IMPACT interoperability with CBC regions and adds clarification and governance requirements for DFPS Data Access Council
Requires DFPS to transition FBSS to evidence-based FFPSA prevention services by 1/1/25; requires transition plan and creation community referrals to existing PEI services.
Requires plan/options from DFPS around separation of staff for administrative review of investigations
Requires DFPS to have fully electronic case management by 9/1/23
SAO review of DFPS enforcement of performance-based contracts
Flexibility with regard to licensing citations against orgs struggling to hire an administrator and flexibility for LCCAs (not LCPAs) who do not yet have supervisory experience
Requires study on extending PCA-like benefits to fictive kin
Stay tuned for more information on implementation efforts with DFPS on SB 1896.