Texas Foster Care System Class Action Lawsuit Greenlit by Judge

A children's advocacy group can proceed with a class action lawsuit accusing the Texas Department of Family Services of depriving foster children of their constitutional rights, a federal judge in Corpus Christi has ruled.

The group, Children's Rights, sued DFPS in 2011, claiming that the more than 12,000 kids in permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) do not receive adequate care, in part because the agency suffers from overburdened caseworkers.

"There is ample evidence...that caseworkers are overburdened, that this might pose risks to the children in the PMC, and that DFPS and other State officials had actual or constructive knowledge of these risks and have not acted to cap or otherwise limit caseloads," Jack wrote in her decision.

She also referred to records showing that that a 2010 DFPS study "found that the agency needed approximately 200 additional conservatorship stage workers," but that "roughly 650" authorized positions went unfilled in fiscal year 2012.

DFPS Spokesman Patrick Crimmins told Hair Balls that "We are reviewing the ruling and considering our options."

Children's Rights Founder and Executive Director Marcia Robinson Lowry told Hair Balls that, if the group prevails in court, the judge could order DFPS to lower caseloads and improve monitoring of private foster homes as well as group homes.

"Unfortunately, the harm that's been done to Texas children has been going on for a while," Lowry said, "and it will take effort, but it's not impossible at all, to address these problems."

Children's Rights complaint includes brief sketches of children who were in PMC at the time the suit was filed, and they are unsurprisingly heartbreaking.

Take, for example, A.M., a 15-year-old girl who has been in the system since 2004. "She was removed at the age of six after calling the police to report a violent fight between her mother and two men," according to the complaint. "When she was taken into care, her father was on death row and her mother was in the process of being tried for a homicide, which A.M. witnessed....In one foster home, she was punished by being made to drink vinegar and run laps....Later, A.M. was placed with her younger sister in a foster home that was supposed to lead to adoption. After over a year in the home, the foster parents told her that they were adopting her sister, but would not adopt her."

Check out the feature story linked to above for a better of understanding of just what too many of kids in the state's care are forced to endure.

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