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Texas Child Welfare Shock: 2,100 Incidents Expose Troubled System

Over the span of 2021 to 2023, Texas grappled with a staggering number of over 2,100 serious incidents within the confines of state offices, hotel rooms, and state-leased homes, collectively constituting the alarming state of the Child Without Placement (CWOP) crisis.

As part of a 12-year-old litigation against the state’s child welfare system, hundreds of pages of serious incident reports involving children in CWOP were published on the federal court records system PACER on Tuesday, as first reported by Texas Public Radio.

The reports underscore the department’s apparent lack of preparedness in directly caring for youth, revealing the adverse effects of the shortage of placement options for children. What initially served as a temporary solution for a few hours or nights had ballooned to weeks and months, with CWOP reaching its peak in 2021, accommodating as many as 400 youths nightly. By November 2023, the number had decreased to 116 unique children.

The incidents documented a myriad of troubles affecting the youth, occurring at a rate of about 60 per month. These ranged from altercations resulting in injuries to both staff and youth, to instances requiring police intervention. Staff turnover at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has soared, attributed to low pay and heavy caseloads.

In a January hearing, attorney Paul Yetter, representing youth in the litigation, emphasized the systematic nature of the CWOP strategy, deeming it harmful to children.

“It is as systematic as clockwork, and it is incredibly harmful to children. These are children being — just terrible things happening, being abused, being injured or running away and trying to commit suicide,” he said, as first reported by Texas Public Radio.

State foster care leaders hesitated to label the placements as unsafe, but critics, including attorneys, experts, and judges, advocated for their discontinuation.

Previous reports had highlighted that Texas spent over $250 million on CWOP in three years, a staggering sum that raised questions about the efficacy of the system. Serious incident reports detailed cases such as administering the wrong medication and assaults on caseworkers, leading to further scrutiny.

Caseworker turnover at DFPS has been alarmingly high, with employees citing low pay and heavy caseloads as primary reasons. Some caseworkers reported driving long distances to monitor youth in hotel rooms, a task for which they were inadequately trained. The vulnerable nature of the youth in CWOP placements, coupled with high mental health needs, exacerbated the challenges.

Despite efforts to address the crisis, progress has been slow, and the state faces contempt threats for failing to produce relevant documents related to its mitigation strategies. As Texas grapples with the CWOP crisis, questions linger about the state’s commitment to reforming a system that has been in federal court for over a decade.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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