Texas foster care deaths addressed in house committee

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than a dozen Texas children have died in foster care in the past two years. A string of deaths in Central Texas helped highlight the lack of oversight and accountability the state has in protecting children. A bill by Representative Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, hopes to raise the standards of care. The House Committee on Human Services will hear HB 781 Monday.

Ashley Harris from Texans Care for Children says Texas has some of the lowest standards for foster parents. Around 90 percent of foster kids are in privately run foster homes. The state currently requires eight hours of training for guarding over basic (non-disabled, non-special needs children) children. The requirement goes up to 16 hours for children with special needs.

“We do know going into the future, more training and better screening will lead to improved safety and placement stability for kids in foster care,” said Harris.

Currently on the Child Protective Services website, there’s a statement saying over 16 hours is recommended for foster parents. However, CPS does not require over 16 hours.

HB 781 would require 35 hours of foster parent training. That instruction would include First-Aid, CPR, behavior intervention, trauma-care, and how to give psycho-tropic drugs to children. The bill would also require private foster homes to make public their requirements and training routines. The Department of Family and Protective Services would check in and keep track of those standards.

There are close to 17,000 Texas children in foster care. Ten died in 2013. Three died in 2014, including a pair (4 and 6 years old) who drowned in a Georgetown lake.

No one registered to oppose the bill at the hearing on Monday.

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