A runaway foster child was struck and killed by a car while walking along the side of the road in northwest Harris County over the weekend, law enforcement and Child Protective Services said.
The 15-year-old girl had been living out of a CPS office at the time.
According to authorities, around 3 a.m. Sunday, the girl and a group of friends were walking along Veterans Memorial Drive, not far from the CPS office on Northpoint, when a beige Astro van struck two of the teens from behind. The 15-year-old girl was moved from the ditch to a nearby parking lot for medical attention, where she died, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said. One other teen in the group had been living in foster care at the CPS office as well, and she was transported to the hospital with a minor arm injury and has since been released.
CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins, who called the girl's death a terrible tragedy, did not know how long the girls had been living in the CPS office. It's a problem that has arisen from a shortage of care providers willing to accept what CPS calls "high-needs" kids, often the most vulnerable in the foster-care system — a problem the Houston Press covered extensively last year. These kids are usually teenagers who have been in foster care the longest, Crimmins said, and may have behavioral or mental health issues and other complicated needs. For privacy reasons, Crimmins did not elaborate on what the 15-year-old girl's specific circumstances were or whether she was among those with high needs. He said that, for those stuck in between placements in general, the time they may be sleeping at CPS offices or even motels can vary widely.
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"Sometimes they can be [sleeping in CPS offices] for a day or two, sometimes it's longer," he said. "It depends on whether CPS can find the appropriate placement. That's always our goal: Not just find a place to put the child, but we need to find the most appropriate placement for the child. The other thing to keep in mind is in the Texas foster care system, the providers can refuse placements. Oftentimes in instances when you're talking about kids with a whole lot of CPS history, CPS may have tried half a dozen or a dozen times or more, but we just don't have a provider that's willing to take the child."
Governor Greg Abbott has made foster-care reform an emergency item in this year's legislative session. When he found out that some kids were sleeping in CPS offices last fall, he called it "unacceptable" in a scathing letter to the agency in which he demanded immediate changes.
“We will not tolerate inferior residential foster care operations,” the governor wrote. “The state’s residential providers must be held to the highest standards while caring for our most vulnerable, or no longer operate in our system.”
The driver of the van was released without charges, but the case is still under investigation, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office.