While we can likely all agree that 2020 has been a year that has somehow simultaneously flown by and dragged on, one thing is certain: the 87th Legislative Session is right around the corner and will be here before we know it. This session brings with it lots of unknowns about how it will be conducted, and state departments have been preparing for a tight budget to carry out their operations. The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) recently released their Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for Fiscal Years 2022-2023 which has given us some insight into their priorities for the children and families they serve.
Last session, DFPS started out with a $4.2 billion baseline request and was able to secure more funding in several key areas. With this additional funding, the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division expanded Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes though Prevention and Early Support) and Texas Nurse-Family Partnership (TNFP) into four new counties each. DFPS also provided a $6,000 salary increase to Statewide Intake (SWI) staff, which has resulted in decreased turnover and hold times. Increased funding was allocated to increase staffing for the Child Protective Investigations (CPI) and Child Protective Services (CPS) workforce which, according to DFPS, has decreased caseload sizes. Additionally, Community-Based Care received funding to expand to a total of five catchment areas: three in Stage I and two in Stage II (case management). While DFPS achieved its goal to advance two areas into Stage II (Regions 3B and 2), only two areas currently operate in Stage I (Regions 8A and 1). They are re-procuring the contract in Region 8B to hopefully begin Stage I services in the summer of 2021. Provider rates were also increased to help serve the children in their care.
In light of a global pandemic, state agencies have since had to make adjustments due to the anticipated $4.6 billion shortfall to the entire state budget. State agencies were asked to reduce their expenditures by 5%. While parts of DFPS were exempt from this reduction, DFPS’ total estimated expenditures for Fiscal Years 2020-2021 are estimated to be $4.4 billion.
DFPS is entering into the next biennium with a $4.5 billion baseline request, which reflects growth forecasts but is impacted by the previous 5% reductions. According to DFPS, this required making some additional funding asks just to get back to a maintenance level of operations. In a typical legislative budget cycle, one would expect numerous exceptional items above DFPS’ baseline request. However, with the current economic climate in the midst of a pandemic and a costly ongoing federal lawsuit, DFPS’ approach to the budget is narrow in scope and only aimed at initiatives they consider to be most necessary. DFPS’ LAR includes requests for an additional $192 million to carry these out.
While approximately $182 million in exceptional items focus on the functions once a family has experienced crisis, it was most promising to see requests for additional investments in keeping families safely together and preventing removals. DFPS specifically included an exceptional item request for an additional $10 million investment in PEI services, specifically Project HOPES, the Family and Youth Success Program (formerly known as STAR), and the Military Families Program. Citing the costs of each program in comparison to the cost of foster care services, DFPS acknowledged these services as a “cost-effective alternative to foster care.” DFPS also included a placeholder to discuss how to leverage the funding opportunities in the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). Their FFPSA strategic plan provides numerous options to carry out the prevention provisions of this federal legislation, and they want the Legislature to weigh in.
DFPS has prioritized maintaining its current CPS operations to ensure they are keeping children safe and providing families with the supports they need. This $99 million request includes additional funding to restore the travel costs that decreased during the beginning of the pandemic, ensure they can continue providing services to clients at the current levels, and additional conservatorship (CVS) caseworkers to meet the target caseload sizes.
To comply with the decade-long federal lawsuit, DFPS included an additional request for $39 million. This amount includes additional staff to meet the heightened monitoring requirements to ensure facilities are adhering to minimum standards and additional staff for Residential Child Care Investigations (RCCI) to address the Court’s concerns about the timeliness and quality of their work. These additional funds also will cover the fees for the court monitors to oversee compliance and report back to the Court.
To continue the momentum of expanding Community-Based Care, DFPS has requested an additional $44 million in funding for the costs associated with expanding Stage I into four new areas and Stage II into two new areas.
We look forward to working with DFPS and the Legislature to protect and support investments in child abuse and neglect prevention, to promote family preservation, and to ensure the children and families in their care receive the services they need to be safe and successful. Stay connected with us for updates on budget discussions throughout the session and to find out how you can get involved.
TexProtects has been hard at work advocating for children and families. Recently, we submitted comments in response to Requests for Information (RFI) from three different legislative committees on how lawmakers can leverage the funding opportunities in the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), invest in early childhood brain development, and ensure the trauma-informed training components of House Bill 18 and Senate Bill 11 from the last legislative session are implemented successfully.
The Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II and the Texas House Human Services Committee asked for the public to weigh in on how Texas is preparing for federal funding changes resulting from FFPSA. With the passage of this federal legislation, states now have access to a funding mechanism for families to be connected to evidence-based, trauma-informed prevention services in the community to prevent removals into foster care. We provided them with our assessment on the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) strategic plan on how they plan to implement FFPSA, and we laid out opportunities we see for Texas to take advantage of this potentially transformative legislation. You can check out more specifically what we had to say in our RFI submissions here and here.
The Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II also asked for comments on how the state invests in early childhood brain development. Knowing how critical these early years are, we encouraged the committee to fund community-based, primary child abuse prevention programs for children prenatal to age 5. We also advocated for the expansion of universal prevention strategies in public health settings since healthcare settings remain one of the most universal touchpoints for families with young children and can connect families to critical services during a very vulnerable time. To strengthen families and ensure child safety prior to a crisis, we also took the opportunity to ask the committee to support our additional Prenatal to Three (PN-3) Collaborative agenda items. More information about our comments can be found here.
The Texas Public Education Committee requested recommendations on the 86th Legislature’s House Bill 18 and Senate Bill 11 regarding school safety, student mental health, and trauma-informed training. We suggested providing additional guidance and incentives for pursuing activities that are evidence-based and have the potential to prevent future threats to school safety by preventing and mitigating the effects of adverse childhood experiences. We also provided recommendations on how to implement the trauma-informed training components. You can find more information on our recommendations here.
While we are passionate about making smart investments to ensure families have the resources they need and children are safe, we can’t do this work alone. We need your help to ensure these efforts move forward. Feeling motivated? We encourage you to reach out to your state representatives and talk to them about the importance of these issues and what they can do for the children and families of Texas. Not sure who represents you? You can find out by going here and entering in your information. We look forward to locking arms with you to make Texas better for the children and families who call this state home.
Texas has moved one step closer to creating a state plan that leverages federal funding to prioritize prevention and family preservation.
In February 2018, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) which makes available a federal match for state investments in evidence-based and trauma informed supports to families at risk BEFORE a removal occurs. These services address the core drivers of child abuse and neglect including substance use, mental health, and parenting challenges. However, in order to successfully leverage this opportunity, state leaders have a number of crucial decisions to make.
Last legislative session, TexProtects championed authored by Senator West which required the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to develop a strategic plan outlining how they intend to implement the provisions of FFPSA. That plan was released earlier this week.
DFPS’ strategic plan highlights the alignments between the goals of the Department and the goals of FFPSA and offers information and implementation options to support the budgetary decisions in the 87th legislative session that will largely determine the scope of FFPSA’s transformational potential. We applaud the prioritization of prevention and support of kinship caregivers in the state’s plan; however, the plan leaves many critical questions unanswered and may not do enough to target populations at risk of entering foster care.
For a quick overview of the top three items of good news in the plan and the top three areas of concern – see below.
First the good news:
DFPS was awarded $50.3 million in Family First Transition Act funds to help implement the provisions of FFPSA and they intend to utilize $33.9 million of those dollars on prevention. They will be spending the rest of the funds on a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) pilot and on IT changes.
DFPS is investing in efforts to better serve informal kinship placements who don’t have as many supports. To ensure caregivers in informal kinship placements know what is available and can be better linked to services, DFPS has issued grants to four providers to complete needs assessments, evaluations, and pilots to support the development of a kinship navigator program. DFPS has also invested in training for 2-1-1 staff on the needs of kinship caregivers they plan to create a marketing campaign designed to ensure kinship caregivers are aware of the resources available to them through 2-1-1.
The DFPS plan includes seven options for expanding prevention services, each with varying degrees of complexity and cost. Approximately half of these options capitalize on and expand the innovative and effective community networks that have been built through the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division of DFPS. This is a smart solution that will enable Texas to quickly build on existing infrastructure to better support families.
Areas of concern within the DFPS plan include the following:
The state stands to lose $26 million in Title IV-E eligible dollarsper year unless there are increased placements available in family-like settings or a QRTP. This will need to be accounted for somewhere in the budget but must not be taken from children and families who are already receiving effective prevention services.
43% of families who have had an open Family Based Safety Services (FBSS) case have another case of child maltreatment within five years of completing services. DFPS’ definition of who is eligible for prevention services includes families participating in FBSS. While the children and families served by this stage of service naturally and most closely fit the broad federal eligibility criteria of children who are at imminent risk of entering foster care, DFPS acknowledged in this plan that many of the provided services are not evidence-based and do not meet the FFPSA standards. To use this funding as intended will require a significant shift in mentality and accountability for the quality and outcomes of services offered to families in FBSS.
DFPS can define who is eligible for prevention services; however, their suggested definition only captures families who are already engaging with the system. Their definition includes families with an open FBSS case, children who have already been in care but are now are at risk of placement disruption or re-entry, and pregnant and parenting youth in Child Protective Services (CPS) custody. There is room for improvement here to consider other populations at risk as well as more upstream options that support families BEFORE they have an open case and CPS involvement.
Now, it is up to lawmakers to decide the best way to move forward, and the potential impact on children and families will largely be decided on their willingness to prioritize prevention and family preservation. Be on the lookout for the release of our FFPSA Brief that will outline this federal legislation and the Texas plan in more detail later this month.
Today’s post looks at bills affecting Child Protection Systems, and next we will conclude with Mental Health and Trauma. For a PDF version of this post, click here.
Child Protection Systems Background
In the 85th Texas Legislative Session (2017), Governor Greg Abbott declared child protection to be an emergency item. That session resulted in unprecedented child protective services (CPS) reforms and investments including:
Increases in kinship care through enhanced financial assistance;
Expansion of community-based foster care;
Treatment-based foster family care in most regions;
Salary increases; and
Additional hires that lowered caseloads
While those reforms made real progress for the safety of Texas children, there was significant work left to do in the 86th Legislative Session (2019) and much less political will to do it. However, opportunities for continued investment in best practice and improvements to child safety were plentiful. Opportunities presented to the 86th Legislature included:
Maintenance – In order to maintain the salary increases, caseloads, and investments in community-based care despite a growing child population and increasing number of child abuse reports and victims, lawmakers had to invest additional dollars or risk losing ground on the changes made last session.
Pressure from the federal class action lawsuit – In 2015, Judge Janis Jack proposed significant changes to the CPS system to ensure the constitutional rights and due process of children in the care of the state in response to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 12,000 children in long-term foster care. While some of the proposals were overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals as overreach, the findings have consistently made clear that the state has work to do to ensure the safety, health, and constitutional rights of children in the conservatorship of the state.
Family First Prevention Services Act – This session presented a new opportunity to leverage federal funds made available through the federal Family First Prevention Services Act in two significant ways. First, it makes available new prevention funding to help strengthen families before a crisis by investing in mental health, substance use prevention and treatment, and in-home parenting programs. Second, it requires that federal dollars for children in care be spent on family-like settings and treatment centers that are offering accredited and high-quality care. In order to leverage those dollars most effectively, the Legislature had the opportunity to invest in planning and improved quality that would ready the state for implementation.
Child Protection in the 86th texas legislature
Top-Priority Bills Passed
House Bill 1 – The General Appropriations Act
Champions: Sen. Jane Nelson, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, Rep. John Zerwas, REp. Sarah DAvis
General Overview – Although we did not see the urgent and comprehensive focus on child welfare this session that we did in the 85th, there was continued attention on child protection issues. Lawmakers viewed their role this session as one of a gatekeeper – ensuring that the large-scale changes of last session continued to move forward and that implementation was monitored closely. Despite a cut in state funds, when federal funds were included, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) budget grew by 6.1%. In their budget, lawmakers showed continued support for community-based care, increasing the use of kinship care, and the needs of older foster youth.
Area of Budget
2020-21 Base Budget
House Bill 1 FINAL
Child Protective Services
Statewide Intake – At DFPS, statewide intake is the front door for the public to report suspected abuse. Additional investments will improve child safety by minimizing hold times on the statewide intake line. Long wait times can result in dropped calls and increase the risk of abuse going unreported. Investments in this biennium will support salary increases of $6,000, resulting in lower turnover and subsequently, a higher level of experience in the workforce.
Area of Budget
2020-21 Base Budget
Additional Investment & House Bill 1 Final
$4.3 million $50.2 million total
Caseloads – The maintenance of manageable caseloads is paramount to ensuring the safety of children who are interacting with the child protection system. Investments for CPS direct delivery staff will help to maintain lower caseloads per worker for most caseworkers.
Area of Budget
2021 Base Budget & Average Daily Caseload
Additional Investment, House Bill 1 Final, & Projected Average Daily Caseload
CPS Direct Delivery Staff
$148 million $1.6 billion total
CPS Family Based Safety Services
Projected caseloads are included in HB 1 and are estimates from the Legislative Budget Board; DFPS will prepare its own analysis.
Community-Based Care – The Legislature provided funding to continue rolling out Community-Based Care (CBC), formerly named “Foster Care Redesign,” which changes the way the state delivers foster care services. Under CBC, a private contractor (called a “Single Source Continuum Contractor [SSCC]”) is responsible for building and managing foster care capacity and placements for a specific service region in the state. CBC has been rolled out in Region 3B (seven-county area including Tarrant County), Region 2 (30-county area in North and North-central Texas that includes Wichita Falls and Abilene) and Region 8A (Bexar County). Additional investments this session will provide resources to expand into Region 8B (16 counties surrounding Bexar), and Region 1 (41 counties in Panhandle), as well as add case management work to the existing contracts.
2020-21 Base Budget
Additional Investment and House Bill 1 Final
$66.9 million $501.4 million total
Foster Care Provider Payments – Foster care families and other providers are essential to building capacity in the foster care system so it meets the current demand, as well as ensuring positive outcomes for children and youth in conservatorship of the state. The Legislature provided additional investment of $12 million in foster family support, certain residential providers and emergency shelters.
Supervised Independent Living (SIL) and Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) – DFPS provides both SIL and PAL programs to assist older youth in their transition toward a successful and self-sufficient adulthood. Without supportive housing and access to training and resources, youth are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, are at higher risk of teen pregnancy, have lower high school graduation rates and are more likely to experience homelessness and unemployment. SIL increases of $1.8 million will support case management services for children with more complex needs and increase the rates paid to providers for services. PAL increases of $1.5 million will support 10 additional specialist positions.
Champions – Rep. Donna Howard and SEn. Kirk Watson
HB 475 will ensure that pregnant and parenting foster youth receive basic information about ways to keep their child safe and promote healthy attachment, child development, and maternal health if they cannot or choose not to participate in Project Helping through Intervention and Prevention (HIP). Project HIP makes available evidence-based, in-home parenting programs to pregnant and parenting foster youth; however, it is voluntary and not currently available statewide.
Other Priority Bills Passed
TexProtects Goal – Efficiency and Best Practices in CPS and Foster Care
Senate Bill 195 – Sen. Charles Perry / Rep. Tan Parker
SB 195 requires DFPS to update their case tracking system to allow DFPS to keep statistics regarding alcohol and controlled substances when funds are available. This detailed information will allow the department to better understand the correlations between substance use and child abuse/neglect as well as the impacts of prenatal exposure to alcohol and controlled substances on children.
SB 781 – Sen. Lois Kolkhorst / Rep. Ben Leman
SB 781 will establish regulations for child safety, runaway prevention, quality contracting, and strategic planning for facilities that provide 24-hour care to children such as residential treatment centers and emergency shelters. The strategic plan outlined in the bill will help ensure that state agencies are prepared for the implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
TexProtects Goal – Increased Use of Kinship Care
HB 1884 – Rep. Ina Minjarez / Sen. Carol Alvarado
HB 1884 requires that when a child is placed with a relative or other designated caregiver, the caregiver is informed, by the court, of the option to become verified by a licensed child-placing agency and of the permanency care assistance program. This opportunity can make available additional resources to the caregiver and as a result, increase stability for children.
HB 3390 – Rep. Scott Sanford / Sen. Angela Paxton
HB 3390 ensures that adequate steps are taken to identify any potential caregiver for a child before that child is placed in foster care. The bill also expands the definition of a designated caregiver to include a person who had a longstanding and significant relationship with the family of the child and requires that the child and parent both be asked to share any relatives or potential caregivers.
TexProtects Goal – Improved Services to Foster Youth Aging Out of Care
HB 53 – Rep. Ina Minjarez / Sen. Beverly Powell
HB 53 will require DFPS to collaborate with the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner and the State Securities Board to develop an expanded financial literacy education program for foster youth. Experiential training will include filing taxes, using insurance, identity and credit theft, budgeting and civic engagement.
HB 123 – Rep. James White / Sen. Kirk Watson
HB 123 eases the burden of obtaining personal identification documents for foster children by waiving the fee, exempting the requirement for a parent signature and allowing the use of the DFPS regional office in lieu of a permanent address.
HB 1702 – Rep. Donna Howard / Sen. Kelly Hancock
HB 1702 requires institutions of higher education to make publicly available the contact information for their foster care liaison officer and information regarding support services available to students who were formerly in conservatorship. In addition, the name of any student who was formerly in conservatorship will be provided to the foster care liaison officer by their institution at the beginning of each semester.
TexProtects Goal – Cross-Sector Collaboration and Child Protection Systems
HB 72 – Rep. James White / Sen. Angela Paxton
HB 72 allows adopted children with chronic health conditions to continue to have access to the healthcare they would have had if they had remained in conservatorship if the adoptive parents opt-in. Foster children who transition into adoptive placement often experience gaps in medical care, and these gaps can have serious negative health consequences for children with severe disabilities.
HB 621 – Rep. Victoria Neave / Sen. Judith Zaffirini
HB 621 expands existing statutory protections against employer retaliation for a professional’s good faith reporting of child abuse or neglect by defining “adverse employment action” to mean any action that affected an employee’s compensation, promotion, transfer, work assignment, or performance evaluation, or any other employment action that would dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report of abuse or neglect.
HB 1709 – Rep. Mary González / Sen. José Menéndez
HB 1709 requires school districts to work closely with DFPS to notify when a surrogate parent has been appointed to a child with disabilities who is in conservatorship. Surrogate parents are appointed by school districts when children with disabilities who are under the managing conservatorship of DFPS do not have an available parent or foster parent who is willing or able to serve as the educational decision maker for the child. When a court-appointed surrogate parent is not properly performing their required duties, the district must consult with DFPS to review the appointment and, if appropriate, find a replacement. This bill expands the definitions of who can serve as a surrogate parent and helps ensure transparency and accountability in the system.
HB 1780 – Rep. Rick Miller / Sen. Lois Kolkhorst
HB 1780 requires the court to consider a parent’s good faith attempt to complete a drug rehab program when deciding whether to grant a 6-month extension before terminating parental rights. In light of the overwhelming majority of neglectful supervision cases that involve substance use and the complexity of treatment and recovery, this bill will give parents a chance to break the cycle of drug addiction and keep families together.
HB 2229 – Rep. Jarvis Johnson / Sen. Kirk Watson
HB 2229 adds specific information to a report the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) must submit to the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Legislature every even numbered year regarding foster children in the juvenile justice system. This bill requires the report to break down the number of foster children in TJJD custody by age, sex, race, conduct, and first-time offenders. This data will enable advocates and policymakers to better implement programs and practices that can prevent foster youth from entering the justice system.
HB 2737 – Rep. Gene Wu / Sen. Nathan Johnson
HB 2737 will require the Texas Supreme Court to provide annual guidance to judges who preside over juvenile or child protective services cases to establish greater uniformity across the state in how those cases are handled. The issues addressed could include the placement of children with severe mental health issues; changes in placement; final termination of parental rights; release of children detained in
juvenile detention facilities; certification of juveniles to stand trial as adults; and commitment of children to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
HB 3809 – Rep. Craig Goldman / Sen. Kirk Watson
HB 3809 will allow suits for personal injury to be brought up to 30 years after the day the cause of action accrued if the injury arose from conduct involving offenses against children including sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual abuse of a young child, trafficking a child and causing the child to be involved in certain sex crimes, compelling prostitution of a child, and indecency with a child. Currently, the statute of limitations is 15 years. This bill allows more time for child victims to come to terms with their trauma enough to talk about it and bring a civil lawsuit.
Missed Opportunities for Improving Child Protection Systems
Children who cannot remain safely at home with their parents are removed by CPS. CPS places children in foster care placements when a suitable kinship option is not available. Foster care services may be provided through placement with foster families or through emergency shelters, residential treatment centers, and other programs. Foster care providers are reimbursed by the state at a daily rate based on the type of care that is required to meet the needs of each child. In Texas, these rates do not fully cover the cost of providing foster care services, and providers must secure philanthropic donations that subsidize the rates in order to provide quality foster care. While lawmakers did make some investments in rate increases, in most cases these increases did not keep pace with inflation and actual purchasing power decreased. Insufficient rates contribute to continuing problems in building sufficient capacity to serve children in need.
Children who are interacting with the Child Protection System experience trauma at higher rates than their peers and often in patterns that are complex and chronic. Although DFPS currently includes trauma-informed training in programs made available to DFPS employees as well as foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers, the comprehensiveness and accessibilty of that training may not be sufficient to ensure staff and caregivers have the skills they need to recognize and address the ways that trauma may be affecting a child’s behavior. Unfortunately, the Legislature failed to take action to ensure that the adults who are charged with decision making on behalf of traumatized children, have adequate training to understand the ways trauma can impact biology and behavior or strategies to increase resilience and healing.
Funding for Increased Quality in Foster Care
The Family First Prevention Services Act, which will go into effect in 2021, targets federal funding to evidencebased foster care prevention services and improved foster care that provides the best environment for each child’s
unique needs. For children with therapeutic needs, Family First dollars are available for providers who have thirdparty assessment, access to medical staff, and follow-up after transition to assure successful placement. Many
Texas providers are not currenly meeting the standards laid out by the bill. This session offered an opportuntiy to
invest in programs and services that are being prioritized by Family First so that implementation will be efficient,
federal dollars can be maximized, and children will have access to higher quality care.
Austin, Texas — Earlier today, the Texas House passed Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West (sponsored in the House by Rep. Stephanie Klick). This bill directs the Department of Family and Protective Services to develop a strategic plan for the coordinated implementation of community-based care and foster care prevention services that meet the requirements of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
TexProtects (the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America) applauds the passage of this bill by both chambers, resulting in SB 355 being sent to Governor Greg Abbott to be signed into law. Statement from TexProtects Vice President of Public Affairs Pamela McPeters:
We applaud the House for swiftly passing this key piece of legislation and sending it to the governor. The Family First Prevention Services Act marked a major shift in federal spending priorities, allowing money that previously was reserved solely for foster care to now be invested in crucial prevention programs that keep children from ever being removed from their families in the first place – safely protected in their homes. Senate Bill 355 will allow the state to develop a Texas strategy to leverage and maximize these funds for services that empower families to be resilient and self-reliant. FFPSA is a landmark recognition that we must support families before tragedy can occur, not just after it happens.