For years, the centralized, government-run Texas foster care system systematically placed children in its care at substantial risk of harm and even death. In 2015, a federal judge found that the foster care system operated by the Department of Family and Protective Services was so flawed that it often resulted in children leaving the state’s care more damaged than when they entered.
The 85th Texas Legislature responded by enacting transformational reforms designed to cure the failures of the former system by localizing responsibility for foster care services. This new locally-controlled model, known as Community Based Care (CBC), shifted primary responsibility for caring for children in foster care to local private and non-profit charitable organizations with the goal of making the system safer and more responsive to the needs of children.
Community Based Care has been implemented in four regions of the state so far and is serving approximately 3,000 children, roughly 6% of the state’s total foster care population. Initial data shows that the reform is doing exactly what it was designed to do—address the failures of the old, state-run system and improve outcomes for children. According to data published by DFPS, 100% of children placed in CBC regions are safe in their foster care placements and more children are being placed with families rather than in institutional settings. Community-led organizations are also demonstrating an impressive ability to find innovative ways to expand services for children and find solutions for some of the most challenging problems the foster care system has long struggled to address.
Despite this progress, there is still more work to be done. Recent changes made by the Trump Administration that attempt to shift the focus of child welfare toward preventing entry into foster care coupled with Community Based Care reforms already underway provides Texas with an opportunity to become a model of successful child welfare reform. When the Legislatures reconvenes in January, it should commit to ensuring that the proven Community Based Care model is fully implemented statewide by 2025.
Texas has the answer for creating a foster care system that prioritizes the safety and well-being of children. It’s time to fully discard the old, government-run system and step boldly into a future where Texans, not a distant bureaucracy, care for our most vulnerable children.
- Support Community Based Care as the future of the Texas foster care system and affirm that innovation in child welfare services should be driven by local communities and providers rather than a centralized bureaucracy.
- The Texas Two-Step: Community-Based Care and the Family First Prevention Services Act by Andrew C. Brown, J.D. and Charissa Huntzinger, Texas Public Policy Foundation (July 2020).
- A Tale of 2 Systems: Monitors’ Report Underscores Need for Community-Based Child Welfare Reform by Andrew C. Brown, J.D., Texas Lawyer (July 2020).
- Local Control, Not Government Control, Will Fix Texas Foster Care by Andrew C. Brown, J.D., The Dallas Morning News (November 2019)