Bi-partisan group of Texas lawmakers hoping to restructure CPS, foster care

The goal is to make sure Texas has one of the best CPS and foster care systems in the country -- and that's a legislative priority according to a bi-partisan House workgroup appointed by Speaker Joe Strauss.  Six republicans and six democrats.

Republican State Rep. James Frank from Wichita Falls says he's introducing a bill that would reorganize the Department of Family and Protective Services moving it out of Health and Human Services.

"We think it's important enough that it ought to be an agency by itself where the Governor can directly appoint the Commissioner and where we as a legislature can deal with it more directly," Frank said.

Frank says down the road, CPS caseworkers should be able to get more things done without having to wait on decisions to go all the way up the chain.  The group says it's a big improvement on how it's set up now.

"It is under the umbrella of Health and Human Services which is a much larger agency that is a very important agency but mostly handles Medicaid, Medicare, the contracts of the state.  They don't do adult protective services or child protective services, they don't do the know HHS is not familiar with doing the investigation.  They don't do foster care and so we just believe the decision-making can be done much faster," Frank said.

The group also agreed on proposing legislation making foster care more community-based instead of centralized -- and expanding Kinship Care placements -- meaning when it's possible, a child removed from a home could be taken care of by someone related to them.

"Outcomes demonstrate that children in Kinship Care are more likely to be placed with their siblings, they're going to feel more accepted, more secure, more loved, have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to run away," said State Rep. Cindy Burkett from Sunnyvale.

"Those are what we have agreed on so far...which gives it pretty big weight right?  Because it's bi-partisan.  So you've got democrats and republicans that have agreed and said this is what we ought to do.  We still have the Senate to talk with and the rest of the body of the house," Frank said.

The workgroup says the bills they discussed today are all expected to be filed this week.
Recently Texas lawmakers approved emergency pay raises for about 7,200 CPS employees but some workers who have been with the agency for years didn't get the raises.
Henry "Hank" Whitman, the head of Family Protective Services was expected to ask for an additional $1.2 million from the Lege Monday to help give them raises too.

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