NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Foster Care Needs Reform, Says Comptroller

May 10, 2004

State-funded foster care residential centers and camps are often lacking adequate health and safety measures for children, according to the Texas state comptroller, who released a report entitled "Forgotten Children," which details foster care conditions.

  • Some facilities had makeshift outhouses or buckets being used as outdoor toilets, and cold food stored in coolers with no ice.
  • In some cases, children were sleeping in sleeping bags in "outdoor camps" but with no walls, fans or heating systems.
  • Monitoring and licensing of facilities has been weak and inadequate, and the agency that oversees foster care has heavy caseloads and high turnover.

Comptroller Carolyn Keeton Strayhorn is recommending using $193 million to contract out oversight of foster care rather than relying on state caseworkers, and removing children from camps that exhibit deplorable conditions.

The state's health and human services commissioner believes that adopting out children or returning them to their families are the best solutions.

  • In 2003, 26,133 children were in foster care in Texas, with the state paying $20 to $277 per child per day to group homes.
  • Remarkably, 86 percent of children in foster care are adopted or return home to their families.

Of the children who do remain in foster care until they become adults, many are not prepared for adult living, and lack vocational skills or experience. Strayhorn recommends providing training in independent living skills to ease their transition.

Source: John Moritz, "Overhaul of Foster System is Urged," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 7, 2004; based on Carolyn Keeton Strayhorn, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, "Forgotten Children," April 2004.


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