In the latest failure of the Texas Child Protective Services agency, a federal judge castigated officials for failing to keep accurate records and potentially depriving thousands of kids with necessary care and accommodations.
U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack tore into the agency earlier this week at a remote hearing over a class action lawsuit affecting 10,000 Texas children separated from their families. The lawsuit has been going on for a decade.
Jack’s case monitors discovered that CPS had failed to update families about legal statuses because of bad record keeping, leading to children not receiving aid they are due under the law. The failure to keep up-to-date information has tainted data from CPS’ parent agency, the Department of Public Safety.
“The state does not even know the legal status of every child in their care,” she said. “We now know that all of the data relied upon by the monitors … is suspect.”
This is only the latest in Jack’s long quest to hold CPS and DPS accountable for the abysmal state of the Texas foster care system. She has also ordered a look into the Senate investigation helmed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) looking into for-profit placement companies that send Texas children out of state. The four corporations targeted by the investigation have shipped nearly 50 children out of Texas. CPS is supposed to report back to Jack in September.
This is on top of the Refuge scandal, where children in a facility licensed by the state were being used for sexual trafficking by employees. The case has blown a lid off the foster care system, leading to Jack threatening to hold the state in contempt of court for not cooperating with her court’s mandates. Among her complaints are yet more bad record keeping, as well as failure to improve conditions.
The legislature attempted to address some of the problems in the foster care system in the last session, passing reforms that will hopefully modernize CPS and better monitor potentially dangerous situations. In keeping with the for-profit company investigation in the Senate, the state made it clear that poverty itself is not a form of neglect worthy of removing a child from their home. There are also some additions of senior management who can hopefully coordinate the fractured and inefficient agency, but badly-needed improvements like new facilities were not included in the final bill.
Despite the hopeful start of reform, CPS and DPS are clearly still struggling to perform the basic aspects of their job protecting Texas kids. Inaccurate record keeping alone is leaving children in danger of being lost in the system without necessary oversight and protection.
Judge Jack gave CPS a week to correct some of the most glaring errors in the database, including mislabeling some children as temporarily in foster care instead of permanently. This covered nearly 500 children, and some had been listed as temporary for four years. CPS employees had to work through the weekend to make her deadline.