Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

Lawmakers Discuss Rising Number of Children Without Placement, Need for Mental Health Providers

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A group of stakeholders from foster care agencies, healthcare providers and advocacy groups went before state lawmakers to discuss the growing number of children without placement (CWOP) Wednesday.

The associate commissioner of child protective services told the human services committee that the number of children is rising and they’re staying longer.

The official count on Tuesday showed there were 127 children in Texas sleeping in offices, hotels and alternative housing options because the state can't find beds in places with the appropriate level of treatment for them. DFPS shared an update, showing children are remaining without placement for an average of 11 days.

“Can you imagine being a child removed from an unsafe home only to wind up in this chaotic nightmare,” said Adult Living Specialist Kimberly Sanders.

Sanders addressed the state's human services committee on behalf of the Texas State Employees Union,

“They have been traumatized already and they need stability predictability and structure instead they are being shuttled between locations and they see new faces rotating in and out with every shift change,” Sanders said.

Sanders joined other stakeholders asking leaders to invest in more training and more licensed facilities

Kate Murphy with Texans Care for Children shared a memo asking leaders to also focus on preventing kids from entering the system in the first place.

“They're in crisis in the system that is supposed to resolve those crises. And so, what can we do to provide behavioral health supports for kids and their caregivers sooner to prevent kids from coming into the foster care system,” said Murphy.

Leaders from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services say the state is trying to recruit more mental health care providers. In the short term Buckner International is partnering with the state to provide cottages

“It gives them a sense of some safety and some security and gives them a more normalized feeling than, you know, being in an office and possibly overhearing talk about, you know, placements and opportunities that aren't available to them,” said Jennifer Petersen, Buckner International Regional Director of Foster Care and Adoption.

So far, they've helped more than 150 children have some sense of normalcy while state leaders wade through layers of challenges and potential solutions to the crisis.

If you'd like to help some of the children directly, Buckner International accepts donations to help provide everyday items to help at the cottages. Learn more here.

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