The Texas foster care system suffers from a severe shortage of safe and appropriate foster homes, which has led to the convening of a panel of experts to address the issue and a myriad of others.
Kate Murphy, senior child protection policy associate at Texans Care for Children, said the number of children who did not have a safe home within the foster care system hit an all-time high in the mid-2021, but is now declining.
“We know we had a really big spike in the number of kids that we couldn’t find homes for,” Murphy noted. “Part of the reason these numbers are going down is because we are placing children out of state or using temporary emergency placements.”
Over the past two years, at least 65 foster care facilities in Texas have closed, more than a third of them for safety reasons, resulting in the loss of more than 2,000 available beds. Texas lawmakers passed several laws this year to address ongoing issues, including approving millions of dollars to fund social workers, retain providers and increase foster care capacity.
Murphy pointed out that many members of the state’s foster care system receive a “child out of care” designation, which means the state cannot find a suitable placement. She added that these children have the most acute levels of need, often suffering from trauma or abuse, substance abuse or mental illness.
“So what we’re seeing is that kids are in care because they can’t meet their needs, and then the system is unable to meet those needs,” Murphy observed. “We find that this happens disproportionately among older young people.”
The pandemic has been a unique stressor for older youth, Murphy said, because of system challenges, but also because they are more vulnerable.
“We have so many young adults leaving foster care who have limited resources,” Murphy explained. “They depend on some of the jobs most affected by the pandemic, like the service sector.”
Murphy is pleased that new policies passed by the state this year will help older youth leaving foster care establish a rental history and credit score, a serious challenge for those who have been in the system for several years. years.
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