AUSTIN (Nexstar)— A Senate special committee is digging deeper into ways to improve the state’s foster care system.
Lawmakers were briefed on previous recommendations made in reports several years ago that have not been implemented into the system.
Third-party consulting firm, The Stephen Group, issued a report with more than 150 recommendations in 2014.
One key suggestion was to give more control at the local level to CPS staff, in order to make it easier for them to do their jobs.
John Stephen, the managing partner of his group, was very candid speaking to lawmakers Monday.
“Why are you not giving FPSS (Family Preservation Support Services) to the community-based care system, prevention should be at the community level, not at the state office,” Stephen said. “That’s never happened to my knowledge. You’re behind the curve.”
The 2014 report also suggested spending more time with families. According to Stephen, he’s not aware of this being tracked by CPS.
Jennifer Jones, the director of the Sunset Advisory Commission, said DFPS presented its transformation report to the commission in 2014. According to Jones, a workgroup was then appointed, where some improvements were made.
“What workgroup put together was a modification that was adopted at the January 2015 meeting of the Sunset Commission. It had 97 changes from the transformation report that were included in that modification. Overall, the goal was to provide them [CPS workers] that flexibility… especially getting rid of some of those paper-based reporting requirements that they had to do that took so much time as well as streamlining other operations that could save time and allow the caseworkers to spend more time with the children and families.”
A West Texas Senator expressed frustration after hearing testimony from both Stephen and Jones.
“The frustration today is you’re not telling us anything that we don’t know,” Texas Sen. Charles Perry said. “We don’t know whether it’s good because we don’t have it implemented and we don’t have it implemented because, gosh, no, we’ve asked what the barriers are, and we keep getting nothing.”
These hearings help give lawmakers an idea of problems and solutions that could be addressed with legislation or other action ahead of the next session.