Foster Parents Pack Fort Worth Town Hall

Lawmakers promise improvements to state's troubled child care system

Dozens of foster parents packed a town hall meeting in Fort Worth Thursday evening amid complaints that Texas isn't properly caring for abused and neglected children.

The agency in charge of caring for children, Child Protective Services, is accused of not investigating allegations that a Grand Prairie girl was abused. She later died.

A recent federal court ruling blasted the state's foster care system, calling it inhumane and saying children "often age out of care more damaged than when they entered."

One of those at Thursday's town hall was foster mother Cori Long.

"If I can help a kid for the rest of their life, that's what I want to do," she said.

Long has taken in four girls all under the age of four and has seen the problems in the system from the inside.

She says caseworkers are frustrated.

"They're overworked," she said. "They have big caseloads. They don't have enough time to devote all the kids that are coming into care that need help."

Problems at CPS have been in the spotlight since 4-year-old Leiliana Wright was found dead last month in Grand Prairie.

Police said she "was tied up in the closet with her wrists tied behind her back."

Her own mother and mother's boyfriend were charged in her death.

The girl's grandmother, Alisa Clakely, said she had reached out repeatedly for help and believes Leiliana's death could have been prevented.

"I called CPS, I called the governor, I called whoever I could," she said.

Two CPS workers were fired. A third resigned.

On Wednesday CPS officials pleaded for help themselves at a Senate hearing, saying workers are overwhelmed by high caseloads.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed new leadership at the Department of Family and Protective Services.

State lawmakers are promising more changes.

"One child dead is way too many," said Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican whose district includes parts of Fort Worth and Arlington. "I think there's an urgency to ensure that doesn't happen again and I think everyone is on the same page, Republicans, Democrats, wherever you are. These children need to be protected. We need to get this right real soon."

Parents like Cori Long say it can't happen soon enough.

"I'm optimistic. I have to be," she said.

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