Saturday, July 01, 2006

Texas Foster Care System

Ongoing investigations into the Texas foster care system
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's current allegations should not come as a surprise to Texas officials.

What is surprising is that she is still being stonewalled and her efforts are still being resisted after three years.

Comptroller Strayhorn and her staff have been investigating the Texas foster care system and publishing their negative findings since 2003.

In 2004, due to deficient services and inadequate oversight, a complete overhaul of the Texas foster care system was recommended by Strayhorn.

At that time, Strayhorn called for accountability:

1.) Accountability for service providers: Strayhorn recommended that direct services be outsourced, and that DPRS conduct unannounced site visits and financial audits.

Direct services providers would be assessed based on:
- Safety
- Placement stability
- Maintenance of familial connections
- Shorter stays in foster care.

2.) Financial accountability: Money was to be directed toward funding programs for foster youth.

3.) Accountability for facilities: If a facility compromised the health and safety of foster youth through noncompliance to standards, their license was to be revoked.

4.) Accountability for DPRS*: (which is now DFPS)
- Caseworker visits were to be thoroughly documented.
- Comprehensive background checks were to be conducted.
- Complaints were to be thoroughly reviewed.
- Minimal number of foster placements.
- Children were not be placed with peers who had a history of violent crimes and /or juvenile sexual predators.
- A crisis management team was to be created, in order to decrease the number of child fatalities in foster care.

*Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services is now Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Let's Not Forget Medical Accountability

Comptroller Strayhorn's 2004 investigation uncovered that:
- 60% of children in the Texas foster care system were being given psychotropic drugs that were not been approved for children.

- Physicians had prescribed mind-altering drugs to children as young as three years old.

- Two Texas doctors who weren't psychiatrists were prescribing mental health medications to foster children.

- It was not uncommon for some foster children to have up to 14 different prescriptions.

- Many of these drugs were labeled "not for use by children," and listed as having serious side effects such as diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, suicidal tendencies.

In 2004, as is currently happening in 2006, Texas health officials cited "privacy concerns" and patient confidentiality as reasons for their reluctance to share information.

Garrett, Robert. Drug fraud alleged in foster care: Strayhorn believes kids are getting unnecessary psychiatric medication. Dallas Morning News, November 12, 2004.

Hughes, Polly Rose. Strayhorn will probe drug use on children: Comptroller asks for medical data on children in foster care. Houston Chronicle, Austin Bureau, Novemver 12, 2004.

Lilliedoll, Wendy. Texas Comproller says state foster care in crisis; "appalled" by conditions; called for "massive overhaul." Youth Law News, April-June 2004.

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I am going to send you some links to the organization I belong to, and some CPS reform updates. CYE.

It's apalling(sp?) that foster children are on so many mind-altering drugs. We can advocate for the things you mentioned, but what happens when mental health advocates object and complain that we "just don't understand" mental illness, and we are pushing kids back to the "old days", etc, etc?
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