Governor Greg Abbott has designated foster care capacity as one of the issues the Legislature can act on during the 30-day special session that began July 8. Specifically, the Governor directed the Legislature to consider directing state dollars toward “enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system.”

This is a critical opportunity to highlight and begin to address the root causes of the lack of adequate placements in the foster care system. It is also a chance to stress the continuum of services needed for children who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect and have complex needs. It comes after a lack of adequate placements has pushed the number of kids sleeping in unlicensed and unregulated settings to record highs.

Soon after the Governor released the special session agenda, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that the state is expected to end the budget cycle with a balance of $7.85 billion. In other words, there is state revenue available to invest in foster care capacity and other state needs. This is an important opportunity for legislators to invest in direct care and services for children and youth in the foster care system, many of whom have highly complex needs due to the trauma they have experienced.

We look forward to visiting with legislators about the best ways to begin addressing the shortage of placements. It’s a complicated problem driven by a number of short- and long-term issues and challenges. For example, like many employers right now, child-serving organizations are struggling to find the staff they need in order to provide the safe, quality care needed for every child. For years, these organizations have struggled to match the salaries available for similar jobs at state agencies. Additional funding — with flexibility to use those dollars to meet organizations’ specific needs — can help address this challenge.

We are grateful for this opportunity to continue working with the Department of Family and Protective Services and our legislators to expand the capacity of the system and strengthen the range of services available to some of our state’s most vulnerable children and youth.