The Texas Senate is expected to approve its state budget plan for the next two years on Tuesday. This is a major step in the budget process, with the House expected to follow soon before negotiators from the two chambers hammer out a final budget bill.
This, in other words, is an important milestone in the writing of the state budget, but not the end.
This budget makes some needed investments in child welfare. For example, the Senate budget fully funds a request from the Department of Family and Protective Services for the expansion of the community-based care. We are grateful that senators continue to support this innovative approach to foster care.
But many of the decisions that will most impact child welfare will be made in the House-Senate conference committee. Specifically, we believe the appropriations process offers a significant opportunity to address the shortage of placements in the foster care system — the shortage that has left record numbers of kids sleeping in state offices.
The following appropriations issues will have a direct and lasting effect on vulnerable children and families:
- Investments in prevention and family preservation services to address mental health, substance use, domestic violence, and provide other parenting supports.
- Incentives for organizations to maintain/build foster home capacity and improve the quality of care and services.
- A foster care rate methodology that reflects 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.
- Continued implementation of Community Based Care – where the work is in much closer proximity to the families being served.
Ultimately, we believe legislators can make a major difference if they keep kids, and services for kids, at the center of their work on child welfare issues. This work should not be about building more bureaucracy, but rather supporting the direct services that vulnerable kids and families need.
We have visited with legislators about these issues through numerous budget hearings, workgroups, and meetings. We believe their commitment to creating better outcomes for vulnerable Texans is real. And we look forward to continuing our work with them after the Senate votes on its budget proposal.