AUSTIN (AP) — A federal judge has accused Texas leaders for failing to act on her orders to fix the foster care neglect in which 400 or so children are being abused and spending multiple nights each month in motels or offices buildings.
Tuesday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack was the latest development as the state struggles to implement reforms Jack ordered as she presides over a 2011 class-action lawsuit against Family and Protective Services alleging that children were held in unsafe conditions.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters acknowledged Tuesday that case workers “are not adequate” for the tasks they're assigned.
The steep rise in displaced children only means more and more of them were looked after by case workers whose training amounted to as little as a 60-minute video on how to care for troubled kids, she said.
The number of foster children without a place to stay nearly doubled from August to September of 2020, from 47 to 87, then shot upwards throughout the year and has hovered around 400 since June.
Many of the children have been in foster care for years and were abused while in the care of the state, Masters said, and she had heard reports that some children had engaged in prostitution in the offices of case workers who were supposed to be protecting them.
“Your days of looking the other way while children are warehoused, raped and abused, and fed psychotropic drugs are done,” said the judge, who resolved on Tuesday to ask Gov. Greg Abbott what he intends to do about it.
Tuesday’s hearing finished with Jack saying her focus has shifted away from sanctioning the state . In 2019, Jack leveled $50,000 daily fines for every day that foster care group homes went without 24-hour supervision.
She said she now wants to coordinate with the plaintiffs and the state to find solutions to the problems with Texas’ foster care system immediately. She asked a lawyer for Abbott to find out what he is willing to do to address it, saying she wanted the governor’s “blessing” before proceeding.