AUSTIN, Texas — A new report from a team at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission identifies a spike in complaints and violations against the state’s foster care system.
The 2019 Report of the Ombudsman for Children and Youth in Foster Care states the agency resolved 607 complaints from youth in the fiscal year of 2019. Investigators found violations in 250 of those complaints.
Those numbers highlight a sharp rise compared to the prior year.
The report from the fiscal year of 2018 identified 241 complaints from youth, of which 71 resulted in violations.
“There continue to be children who have their rights violated, who experience continued abuse and who are not having their lives improved in the way we would like,” Texans Care for Children representative Kate Murphy said.
Just last month, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services announced good news for Texas foster care – more children leaving the system than entering, and a record number of adoptions.
Gov. Greg Abbott commented at the time, saying the foster system had “unprecedented success” in 2019.
“I think in general it’s really good news,” Murphy said. “But the numbers don’t give us the whole story. They don’t give us all the information.”
The complaints highlighted in the ombudsman report vary. Some claim abuse and neglect; others involve the rights of kids in foster care and the responsibilities of caseworkers.
“Less than 2% of the complaints [10 out of 607] were abuse/neglect related,” DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins said. “We are constantly working to improve the system.”
One explanation for the rise in complaints and violations could be the addition of three ombudsman workers, who were able to meet with children in person more.
But Murphy says the findings are still cause for concern.
“When you have children who are experiencing abuse, when you have children whose rights are being violated, there’s a lot out there that suggests that that’s going to affect their ability to live their best lives in the future,” Murphy said.
The KVUE Defenders also reached out to the governor’s office for this story. So far, no one has responded to a request for comment.
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