FPS ‘Capitol’ Day of Action sheds light on caseload crisis, educates legislative staff on recent court rulings

make the call

While our Day of Action is over, the campaign continues! Keep up the pressure, contact your elected leaders today. Click image for details.

On March 9, TSEU members from DFPS came from across Texas to the Capitol for a DAY OF ACTION. Our goal was to help educate legislators and their staff on recent federal court rulings (see more below) aimed at, among other issues, unmanageable caseloads within the agency.  We visited with or dropped off information at more than 100 legislative offices.  Hearing from front-line workers goes a long way in swaying opinion at the capitol and moving our elected leaders to action. While our ‘day of action’ has ended, this issue is far from over.  We would like to encourage all FPS members and workers to contact their elected officials today. (click on image at right for more information and a sample phone script).

Along with educating them on the court ruling, we were asking our State Representatives and Senators to:

  • Support legislation to create caseload standards in FPS, and the funding to make these standards a reality.
  • Support the ruling and urge Commissioner Specia and Attorney General Paxton to drop the appeal of Judge Jack’s ruling;
  • Support meaningful reform and provide the funding necessary to expand placement options and improve the quality of care in Texas’ foster care system.

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HOW WE GOT HERE: In December, after weeks of trial and nearly a year of deliberation, Senior US District Judge Janis Graham Jack issued a 250 page decision that has brought systemic failures in DFPS to the forefront. Judge Jack found that DFPS violated the 14th amendment right of children in care to be kept from an unreasonable risk of harm by the State. The ruling states that the agency was deliberately indifferent to the needs of foster children, ignored decades of reports and recommendations to correct problems, and departed from professional judgement in implementing policies and procedures.

The ruling by Judge Jack is clear:
“The reality is that DFPS has ignored 20 years of reports, outlining problems and recommending solutions. DFPS has also ignored professional standards…The Court has no assurance that anything has changed”
“It is clear to the Court that a main reason DFPS has not improved in the face of decades’ of reports outlining deficiencies and recommending solutions is that there is no institutional memory…{DFPS Officials} Black and Morris never read critical reports about the departments they are charged with overseeing. It is no surprise then that Texas commissions full-scale audits of its foster care system every five to ten years, always reaching the same conclusions, but never producing improvement.”

Addressing the fundamental problems in DFPS and improving the quality of services provided to vulnerable Texans needs to be a priority for lawmakers. There are no shortcuts to improving services and outcomes. High caseloads create wider gaps for Texans to fall through in every part of DFPS, and all the Texans we serve deserve better. While the lawsuit and ruling are specific to foster children, the mountain of evidence supporting the need for lower caseloads is not unique to only one CPS program. Recent internal reforms and changes made from the FPS Sunset Bill (SB 206) do not address the issues central to Judge Jack’s ruling.

We have complied excerpts from the 250 page decision by Judge Jack below into three broad categories.  These are available as a PDF download:

UNMANAGEABLE CASELOADS  /  TURNOVER  /  THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM

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