In an appalling but not unsurprising move, state officials are appealing a federal judge's December ruling ordering an overhaul of a foster care system that, according to the ruling, has shown deliberate indifference to children's safety.
Judge Janis Jack found in favor of New York-based advocacy group, Children's Rights, that sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and other agencies in 2011 on behalf of roughly 12,000 foster kids in the state's Permanent Managing Conservatorship program — essentially kids stuck in the system until they age out at age 18. The group claimed that the state had violated the children's Constitutional rights to be protected from unreasonable harm.
Jack ordered the appointment of a special master to implement a major overhaul, including how abuse allegations are investigated. At trial, DFPS personnel testified that the agency's internal study of 111 abuse claims that had been ruled "unable to determine" were found to be 75 percent inaccurate. In the eight cases where abuse was found to have taken place, the agency allowed the kids to remain in the care of their abusers.
But last week, the state filed a notice of appeal, claiming that state officials "are likely to succeed on the merits of the appeal because the Court's conclusion that the foster care system creates an unreasonable risk of harm to [the children] is unsupported by law."
The state also argues that there were flaws in how the 12,000 foster care children were class-certified, alleging that the children's placements and individual levels of need are too dissimilar to be legally lumped together.
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The state also argues that if the Fifth Court of Appeals doesn't stay Jack's ruling, it will "irreparably harm Texas's management of its foster care system."
This seems especially arrogant, given that the evidence produced in the trial showed just how poorly Texas was already "managing" the foster care system.
"When a federal court finds that a foster care system has been hurting the very kids that it is supposed to protect, it is time to stop stalling and fix what has long been broken," Children's Right contended in a statement. "We will vigorously oppose Texas’ latest efforts to defend a system that allows thousands of our children to suffer abuse, neglect and instability.”
Updated, Jan. 12: Judge Jack has denied the State's motion to stay the injunction. The appeal is still pending.