The state’s struggles to find foster-care placements for all children who need them has resulted in conversation about state sanctions imposed on community-based organizations in Texas. As agency leaders and others consider these steps, it’s important to fully understand the capacity shortage, how to solve it, and what it could mean to take some organizations offline.

The TACFS Board of Directors sent TACFS members the following message Wednesday morning in response to questions and concerns about the possible impact of the state’s actions on the children, youth and families that these organizations serve. 

There is growing concern among child-serving community organizations regarding actions that the State may impose for a lack of available placements. These concerns come at a critical point in the state legislative session, as members of the Texas House and Senate are entering the final month of deliberations and will be making many key decisions related to funding and policy.

TACFS Board of Directors

TACFS and our members prioritize safe and quality care for the children, youth and families we serve. As the system struggles with a lack of placements for all of the children who need them, we want to help maintain a focus on constructive solutions and help all stakeholders understand the challenges that community organizations face, especially in light of the difficult year we have all endured. As we talk about moving forward in a manner that is best for Texas children, it is critical to keep the following points in mind:

1. Community-based organizations in Texas are the foundation of our child welfare system. It is critical that DFPS, HHSC, elected officials, and community partners all help position and lift up these organizations to safely and effectively serve all of the kids who need their care. When organizations are struggling or are taken offline, there is greater strain on an already-fragile system.

2. Organizations across Texas are focused on providing quality and safe care for the children and youth who need it. This requires the staffing, the programing, the expertise, and the resources to maintain safety among kids who have high needs and often come into the system after experiencing severe trauma. As organizations weigh whether they have placements and services available, they must consider the unique needs of the children and youth coming through their doors, as well as those they are already serving.

3. The capacity challenge in our foster care system is a complex problem that requires a robust solution. There is more to this challenge than finding more beds. It’s about creating more room for a variety of services, some of them highly specialized, for high-needs kids. The successful delivery of those services requires meaningful state investments as well as an oversight structure that aligns well with the nature of the work.

4. Currently, funding does not reflect the true cost of care and our multi-layered oversight structure can be punitive and obtuse. When an organization is struggling, it is important to determine whether the struggles stem from organizational issues or broader system challenges.

5. It is critical to recognize the relationship between monitoring and disciplinary practices and providers’ willingness to take on risk. Practices that are intentionally punitive, as well as disciplinary actions that are unclear or lack due process, provide a disincentive for taking on kids with especially high needs.

6. It’s more important than ever that community organizations, agency leadership, and legislators work together to solve the capacity crisis that is negatively affecting the children that all of us serve. Collaboration among all stakeholders will ultimately lead to the strongest solutions and best outcomes for kids.

The Board of Directors and members of TACFS are fully committed to providing safe and quality care for all Texas children and youth who need it. As an organization, TACFS is eager to bring all parties together to establish a plan to address these challenges in the short term and put the system on a better path going forward.