Panel Recommends Major Changes to ‘Woefully Inadequate' Child Mental Health Care System

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Child welfare advocates are hopeful that a new set of recommendations could help end a crisis in the state's foster care system.

A report from three appointed experts released Monday showed that on average more than 300 children in foster care each did not have a safe place to sleep and were sometimes sleeping in hotels, case worker offices and churches. There were 461 children without placement in July 2021. It's an issue that advocates and state workers have been demanding state leaders address for months.

Experts tasked with assessing the crisis, reviewing thousands of documents and interviewing stakeholders and children about their experiences described the state's system as "woefully inadequate" and offered solutions several short and long-term solutions that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and Texas Health and Human Services Commission should begin to implement within the next 30-90 days.

Among the recommendations, panelists suggested the state strengthen it's infrastructure and create positions to help DFPS and HHSC better coordinate their efforts to address the problem, invest in more services to keep children with relatives and kinship placements, enhance access to resources and create mobile crisis centers and overall, focus on developing a statewide children's mental health system of care support kids in care and to prevent kids from entering the system.

Kate Murphy, Senior Policy Associate for Child Protection at Texans Care for Children told NBCDFW Anchor Brittney Johnson she believes that improving access to higher quality mental health care resources will benefit families beyond those involved in the child welfare system. She is optimistic about the recommendations listed in the report.

"We are just going to be urging our state leaders to really dig in and follow these recommendations and do what's needed to support them. So kids in foster care, can be safe, can heal from trauma can get the mental health services and supports that they need," said Murphy,

The Dallas Morning News reports that agency leaders agreed to review the recommendations and report back to federal court with their next steps. Learn more about the report, and the latest update from court monitors here.

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