Child Protective Services -- Not So Good

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A federal agency in charge of reviewing the state's Child Protective Services has released an early look at its 2008 Child and Family Services Review.

The Administration for Children and Families found that caseloads in Texas are still too high, and children in the state's care aren't visited on a monthly basis, as required. (The report is supposed to be available online, but isn't.)

But before state legislators go and drop a couple hundred million (as if) in reaction to these findings, they should remember one thing:

"The review is crap. The methodology used is so shoddy and so poorly done…that you simply can not tell, based on a CFSR, whether a state is any good or not," Richard Wexler, who runs the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, tells Hair Balls. "So if they happen to say Texas has a lousy system, they're right, but that's just good luck."

Texas probably doesn't need a federal review to prove that the child welfare system is a poor performer. But Wexler believes that these reviews can actually encourage poor practices.

One of the standards in the review is length of stay in foster care - the shorter the better. When the state removes a child that shouldn't have been removed in the first place, Wexler says, the child is generally returned relatively soon, and the state is given high marks.

But if a state directs its resources to children in high-risk situations, the foster-care stay will probably be longer.

"They're being penalized for doing good work," Wexler says. ""If the [review] process went away, it would actually make things slightly better."

For more information about problems with the Child and Families Services Review, visit Wexler's blog. He's also written at length about the FLDS case, and in reaction to Tuesday's indictments, Wexler writes, "It seems that in Texas, they've discovered an amazing new way to deal with alleged criminals who allegedly engage in criminal acts of child abuse: the criminal justice system."

But as for CPS's involvement in the case -- as opposed to DAs and the judicial system -- he isn't so sanguine. "The FLDS case is one more example of Texas misusing the meager funds it gets," Wexler says.

-- Paul Knight

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