Contractor failures gaining national attention as Texas pushes for even more privatization

As state leaders continue to tout the plan to privatize most of CPS in Texas, elected leaders in other states and in the US Senate are taking a critical look at the work of private contractors. Two states that have privatized child welfare systems, Kansas and Florida, are dealing with private agency failures and largess. A 2-year study of private contractors in all 50 states revealed a familiar pattern of states not holding private agencies accountable.

US Senate Report

  • Recently, the US Senate Finance Committee released a bi-partisan report titled, “An Examination of Foster Care in the United State and the Use of Privatization.” The committee concluded “that children who are under the legal authority of their State, yet receive services from private for-profit agencies, have been abused, neglected, and denied services. The very agencies charged with and paid to keep foster children safe too often failed to provide even the most basic protections, or to take steps to prevent the occurrence of tragedies.
    Recommendations from the committee include calls for strict and comprehensive oversight of contractors, and revoking contracts for private agencies that fail to provide safe placements. Setting standards for caseload levels is another key recommendation from the committee.

Florida Salary Cap

  • The Florida Legislature passed a law to rein in out of control executive salaries at “non-profit” contractors that provide services and case management for children and families in the foster care system. Texas’ privatization plan follows the same blueprint as Florida, with lead contractors having responsibility for case management and services for kids and families in a defined geographic area. Florida advocates, families, and judges have long complained about the availability & quality of services provided by lead agencies and their sub-contractors. An investigation by local media revealed that millions of dollars were being siphoned off by the huge six figure executive salaries at the different lead agencies throughout the state. The salary cap imposed by law makers in Florida is a direct effort to force private non-profits to direct more state funding towards the children and families the funds are intended for.

Kansas Accountability

  • Kansas has also implemented a privatized foster care system similar to Texas’ plans. Two contractors are responsible for all case management and client services in the entire state. Twenty years into their privatization experiment, Kansas still spends more per child than before privatization but with the same outcomes. Currently, a placement shortage has resulted in children sleeping in agency offices and the state agency overseeing the contractors is being scrutinized for not holding providers accountable. Agency officials were unaware of that 70 foster children were missing and what steps were being taken by contractors to locate the missing children.