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Kids sleep in CPS offices after foster-care rejection: Having 148children sleep in Child Protective Service offices is unacceptable," saidHouse Human Services Chairman Patrick Rose...
Kids sleep in CPS offices after foster-care rejection
By TERRI LANGFORD and JANET ELLIOTT
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Private foster care providers have refused to take in at least 372
abused or neglected children so far this year, forcing most to sleep in
Texas Child Protective Services offices for a night or more, the Houston
Chronicle has learned.
Last month, the number of children who had to sleep in offices because
an appropriate foster care bed could not be found totaled 148, a sharp
rise from 32 youths in January.
State officials said earlier this year that most of the office-bunking
children had severe emotional or medical problems, making them the
toughest to place in an already crowded 34,000-bed foster care network.
In the past five years, the number of foster children increased 43
percent while the number of foster care beds grew by 28 percent.
But in May, CPS acknowledged that another factor was involved: Private
organizations that care for 80 percent of Texas' foster care children
can refuse to provide a bed for a child for any reason.
"In every case of a child spending the night in an office, a provider
with space for that child has refused the placement," said Patrick
Crimmins, spokesman for CPS' parent agency, the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services.
That right-of-refusal provision is at the center of a struggle between
DFPS and providers that has pushed an overtaxed system past its limits
and exposed how providers have the final say as to whom they will care for.
"The system is maxed," Crimmins said. "The system as designed, depending
on your point of view, either cannot or will not absorb more children."
Providers such as Lutheran Social Services counter that they're having
to refuse more children to protect their own operations because state
caseworkers sometimes underplay a child's behavior history, resulting in
a child being placed in the wrong setting. Private agencies contend they
need that right of refusal to keep everyone safe.
''Some of the referrals are not appropriate," said Charlene Hoobler,
senior vice president of child and family services for Lutheran Social
Services. "We're not in the business of turning away children, but we
need to manage our risk."
Family and Protective Services officials argue that the agency does its
best to evaluate the child's level of care.
"We honestly describe the characteristics of each child, including any
emotional, behavioral or medical needs, when seeking a placement.
However, describing a child is not the same as experiencing that child
as a caregiver," Crimmins said.
Some of these tougher-to-place children, providers say, are so difficult
they could jeopardize the foster care operation's licensing if they hurt
someone or themselves. So providers say they must pay closer attention
to the child's past behavior for both safety and cost reasons.
If a severely disturbed child already has been through a provider's
foster care program once, some providers think there is no point in
accepting the child again.
"Providers we are contacting are not accepting some children with
special needs, even though they are licensed to do so and are already
caring for other children with special needs," Crimmins said.
But providers say their right of refusal is about the only flexibility
they have to prevent foster care children from being placed in a
residential facility or foster home ill-equipped to handle them.
A continuing problem
In a 2004 study on foster care by then-Comptroller Carole Keeton
Strayhorn, she determined the lack of such a no-rejection policy
undercuts the state's ability to manage an effective program. Some
states do have a no-rejection policy.
"Allowing providers to pick and choose among foster children and the
services they deliver undermines the entire foster care system,"
Strayhorn's report found. ''It also puts caseworkers in a bind when
contractors can dictate which children they will serve."
Lawmakers who worked to pass a foster care overhaul this session are
alarmed by the rising number of children staying overnight in offices,
no matter what the reason is.
"Having 148 children sleep in offices is unacceptable," said House Human
Services Chairman Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs. But Rose does not
support a blanket no-rejection policy.
"I do think it's important for us to build our capacity, to require
child-placing agencies licensed by the state to accept children on short
notice and in critical situations, and to arm our state employees with
every ability possible to take care of those children during emergency
situations," he said.
State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, tried this session to put a
no-rejection policy in place, but it failed to pass.
''We're letting them (providers) dictate the rules, and that's what is
creating this problem," Uresti said.
The other factors
Another issue for providers is flexibility in the number of children
they take in.
Until recently, it was easier for providers to ask for a little leeway
regarding caseloads. They could take on children they may not have been
equipped to handle, at least on an emergency basis, because they could
request a rules variance from the state to do so.
"Before, I could act in the best interest of a child and know (Texas
child care) licensing would grant me a variance," Hoobler said.
As of this year, those variances are harder to come by as the state
began holding agencies and the homes they manage to tougher standards
that will officially take effect July 1.
Uresti said he would like to see a flexible system in place when it
comes to finding placements for this hardest-to-serve abused-child
population. He would like to see CPS bend the rules to allow providers a
sort of 48-hour emergency leeway when taking on this tougher population.
"We have to strike a balance," he said.
Each month, about 20 percent of those children sleeping in offices were
newly discharged from psychiatric hospitals.
Providers such as Lutheran Social Services or DePelchin Children's
Center are licensed to place abused children into foster homes or
residential treatment facilities, which are more secure than a regular
foster home but less restrictive than a psychiatric facility.
In Texas, there are 4,085 residential treatment beds in 91 centers. Most
centers are either at or near capacity, so operators have to weigh
carefully who among this hard-to-place population could get the most out
of these premium beds.
''We base it (placements) on whether we can help this child," said
Curtis Mooney, DePelchin's president and chief executive.
A child discharged from a psychiatric hospital can cost providers more
than $300 a day for one-on-one supervision in an RTC, Mooney said.
Depending on the child and the extent of its problems, sometimes the
state will pay less than half that.
''You can't run a quality program on $120 a day," Mooney said. ''If all
I had to care for these children were the resources the state was
paying, I could not provide the program these children need."
Lawmakers and state officials are hoping a new reimbursement rate passed
this session — $374 a day for 60 days for children exiting psychiatric
hospitals — will ease the office sleeping problem. That increase, as
well as a small overall rate increase for all foster children, goes into
effect Sept. 1.
Until then, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Commissioner Carey Cockerell is holding daily meetings to make sure CPS
staffers have the resources to meet the needs of children in offices and
hotels. State officials are meeting with residential providers to
discuss ways to increase foster care capacity. Another agency panel is
exploring whether these children could be placed in housing run by other
social services agencies.
A foster care package approved this legislative session adds more than
300 CPS caseworkers and tightens requirements for foster placements. It
also allows state employees who have passed criminal background checks
to provide emergency care if an appropriate placement cannot be found.
''We recognize that this is a serious issue, and we are aggressively
exploring solutions," Crimmins said.
CURRENTLY CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES VIOLATES MORE CIVIL RIGHTS ON A
DAILY BASIS THEN ALL OTHER AGENCIES COMBINED INCLUDING THE NATIONAL
SECURITY AGENCY/CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WIRETAPPING PROGRAM....
CPS Does not protect children...
It is sickening how many children are subject to abuse, neglect and even
killed at the hands of Child Protective Services.
every parent should read this .pdf from
connecticut dcf watch...
Number of Cases per 100,000 children in the US
These numbers come from The National Center on
Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington. (NCCAN)
Recent numbers have increased significantly for CPS
*Perpetrators of Maltreatment*
Physical Abuse CPS 160, Parents 59
Sexual Abuse CPS 112, Parents 13
Neglect CPS 410, Parents 241
Medical Neglect CPS 14 Parents 12
Fatalities CPS 6.4, Parents 1.5
Imagine that, 6.4 children die at the hands of the very agencies that
are supposed to protect them and only 1.5 at the hands of parents per
100,000 children. CPS perpetrates more abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse
and kills more children then parents in the United States. If the
citizens of this country hold CPS to the same standards that they hold
parents too. No judge should ever put another child in the hands of ANY
government agency because CPS nationwide is guilty of more harm and
death than any human being combined. CPS nationwide is guilty of more
human rights violations and deaths of children then the homes from which
they were removed. When are the judges going to wake up and see that
they are sending children to their death and a life of abuse when
children are removed from safe homes based on the mere opinion of a
bunch of social workers.
BE SURE TO FIND OUT WHERE YOUR CANDIDATES STANDS ON THE ISSUE OF
REFORMING OR ABOLISHING CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES ("MAKE YOUR CANDIDATES
TAKE A STAND ON THIS ISSUE.") THEN REMEMBER TO VOTE ACCORDINGLY IF THEY
ARE "FAMILY UNFRIENDLY" IN THE NEXT ELECTION...
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