As some of you may know, I have been blessed this year to be unopposed in both the Republican primary election and in the general election in November. That means that I will be “reelected” as your state representative for another two year term (2021-22). The best part of being unopposed is that it allows me to use the next 11 months to dig in on policy work as we prepare for the next legislative session.
As we have started the new year, my staff and I are setting goals and objectives for our legislative priorities. Since the foster care system, Child Protective Services (CPS) and its parent agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), have long been a high priority for me, I thought it would be timely to share some of these ideas as we plan for the next legislative session.
Overall, there is a lot of reason to be optimistic for the future of foster care in Texas. First, Texas families of all stripes continue to answer the call and take at-risk children into their homes, either on a temporary basis or as a new forever home through adoption. In December 2019, DFPS reported that they have seen an increase in the number of adoptions in the last fiscal year. Second, staff turnover at the agency has steadily declined over the last several years, which can help lead to better results for kids. Finally, Texas continues to roll out Community Based Care (CBC), a paradigm shift in the delivery of child welfare services, whereby non-profit organizations manage foster care services at a community level in order to better align services with the needs of foster children.
Notwithstanding these positive trends, there is always room for improvement. Specifically, wrongful child welfare investigations and removals continue to be a problem for many families in our state creating trauma for children and unnecessary churn and distractions for the workers trying to improve outcomes for those kids. I also am concerned for the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) (a federal law which significantly redirects federal funding around foster care services) as well as the ongoing saga of the federal court case surrounding case load standards and other CPS items.
With any area of large governmental involvement, there are two distinct but interrelated areas to monitor-legislation and administration. Drafting law and directing state spending are two essential activities for which the Legislature is solely responsible, yet when done poorly, create massive challenges for even the best agencies. Conversely, it is equally true that innovative and carefully crafted laws can be undermined by poor implementation. Both sides are essential to good governance!
If you are interested in additional detail about 2020 and beyond for child welfare, we’ve got more for you in the bulk of the newsletter.
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank
. . . this is an excerpt from a Newsletter sent on January 27, 2020