P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2007
AUSTIN -- A status report released today about ongoing efforts to relocate foster children in homes managed by Mesa Family Services highlights the need for strict oversight in the state's foster care system, State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, said.
"We are all relieved to know that the Department is working to ensure the safety of these children. However, the problems with Mesa underscore the need for systemic change," Senator Nelson said. "This is why we are working to pass reforms that will improve oversight in foster care and pressing for additional funding to reduce caseloads."
SB 758 by Senator Nelson is pending in the Health & Human Services Committee, awaiting approval of funds by the Senate Finance Committee. This bill:
- Expands the drug endangered child initiative to include cocaine, crack, and heroin;
- Creates a medical advisory committee to recommend and design pediatric centers of excellence that will assist in efforts to detect signs of child abuse or neglect;
- Creates a licensing committee within DFPS to review violations and trends;
- Deletes the Independent Administrator provision, leaving that role with the state;
- Adds risk analysts and safety specialists in oversight of placing agencies and facilities;
- Requires the development and implementation of a performance enhancement unit to ensure compliance with laws, rules, and agency policy;
- Requires annual unannounced inspection of residential child-care facilities;
- Requires DFPS to investigate all serious incidents in foster or group homes, as well as minimum standard violations, for children under 6;
- Requires consultations with CPS caseworkers, CASA volunteer, and ad litem, if applicable, before determining the best placement for the child.
- Authorizes the courts to order intervention services, even when the child has not been removed;
- Establishes the Strengthen Families Through Enhanced In-Home Support Program.
Today's status report released by the Department of Family Services announced that 22 children were relocated to new foster homes and that 38 foster homes are no longer operating. The corrective actions followed the deaths of three children in foster homes operated by Mesa.