State reports increase in foster children with trauma & mental illness

The suspect accused of murdering UT student Haruka Weiser was mentioned during a committee hearing at the capitol Wednesday morning. The topic involved CPS and an increasing number of foster children with trauma and mental illness.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia testified before the senate health and human services committee Wednesday about a concerning increase in high risk children in foster care.

High risk means emotional disturbance, aggressive behavior, disabilities and other medical needs.

The children are winding up in psychiatric hospitalization and the state is having trouble finding placement for them when they are able to get out.

Specia says the problem is not identifying and addressing the "high risk" early enough.

"Every child deteriorates with every placement and so we've got to have the minimum number of placements, place them correctly for their needs and then work with that child at that location,” said Specia.

The Stephen Group did an operation assessment of CPS and determined out of the nearly 30 thousand kids in the state's care, children experienced an average of 2.7 placements, while those deemed high risk were moved an average of 5.7 times.

990 children were moved 10 or more times.

Senators were concerned by what they heard. Senator Jose Rodriguez brought up the case of Meechaiel Criner who is charged with the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser.

"Here we had a case and teachers as quoted in the newspaper quoted saying he knew he had severe mental issues,” said Rodriguez.

He is referring to a statement we received from Criner's former teacher who said Criner was extremely mentally ill, but undiagnosed because he bounced around the foster care system.

Specia responded, “Senator, I'm not going to comment on that case. That information is confidential. I will have someone to see you and bring you the entire history of that case."

As the commissioner's team went over plans to fix issues under a foster care redesign, he was given stern encouragement to make those repairs--soon.

"I'm telling you this,” said Senator Charles Perry. “This problem should not be as ongoing as it's been. This is a problem that should've been fixed years ago."

A funeral service is schedule for Haruka Weiser this Saturday in her home state of Oregon.

Criner is set to appear in a Travis County courtroom for the first time this Friday.

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