Texas Democrats in DC Are Hurting the State’s Foster Care Crisis - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Texas Democrats in DC Are Hurting the State’s Foster Care Crisis
Texas Democrats in DC speaking about their decision to boycott the special session, July 17, 2021, (Youtube Screenshot)

Texas foster children facing an enormous lack of resources are being pushed to the back-burner by Texas Democrats who fled to D.C. to avoid passing an election integrity bill.

One of the Texas Democrats in D.C., Rep. Ina Minjarez, noted June 25 that 23 foster children in Texas have died in the last 21 months, and said: “We cannot afford to wait another day to address this issue.” She specifically requested in a letter that Gov. Greg Abbott address the foster care crisis in the legislative special session. 

And yet, Minjarez’s $1.5 million trip to the nation’s capital alongside her fellow Democrats who recently requested that care packages of salsa, soda, and other items be sent from home is preventing that issue from being solved. She did not respond to a request for comment. 

Minjarez’s letter was similar to one Democratic Sen. José Menéndez sent to Abbott, which asserted that “the foster care system is reaching a critical point in the ongoing capacity crisis” and that current reimbursement rates for foster care providers are inadequate. “This is an issue that demands our immediate attention,” he wrote. 

The foster care situation in Texas has been called a catastrophe. Though it is illegal for children to spend the night in an unlicensed facility such as a church, motel, or CPS office, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Mark Wilson told The American Spectator that in June, 415 children spent at least two consecutive nights in such placements because of a lack of providers. Before 2021, that number rarely crept above 100. 

The shortage of adequate placements has been attributed to facility shut-downs in the midst of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Texas foster care system and a lack of funding to give care providers higher payments.

Social worker and former foster parent Allie Vasquez from San Antonio told The American Spectator that another part of the issue is that there are not enough therapeutic foster homes specifically for kids dealing with complex trauma. “Especially with COVID, people are less likely to open their homes, which is understandable,” she said. 

Because of reduced placement availability, units of caseworkers are having to take four-hour shifts so that adults can be present with the kids 24 hours per day, San Antonio social worker Cynthia Vollmer told The American Spectator.

“There are kids sleeping in the offices,” she said. “The staff don’t have the proper training. It’s one thing to be a caseworker and go in and check on an environment and support a parent. That’s different from having a child with you and being responsible for the child for a period of time.”

She continued, “A lot of those kids are just leaving for the day, and you can’t imagine what’s going on — they’re on the streets doing who knows what. They come back at night to lay their head, and there’s probably some who don’t come back. So you’re taking a child from a situation that’s dangerous or unsafe, and putting them in another environment that’s potentially dangerous or unsafe.”

Wilson said it was important for the State of Texas and partners in child welfare to increase their capacity to provide permanence and stability for the children under their care. “We have begun the process of hiring 100 contract workers who will be able to take some of that burden off Child Protective Services staff so they can focus on the important work of protecting children and caring for families,” he said.

He added “We are pleased that Gov. Abbott and the legislature are focused on this issue. We continue to work with lawmakers every day to address this problem, and that has not, and will not change.”

Both Vasquez and Vollmer agreed that throwing more money at the problem is not necessarily going to fix it, noting that past increases in funds have not addressed the root issues. 

“We need more people who are doing it for the right reasons and who are intrinsically motivated,” Vasquez said. “In Region 8 we had all of the money for community care and it backfired.”

But when asked if Democrats boycotting the special session to block the voting bill was worth preventing the foster care legislation from at least being considered, Vollmer said, “Of course not. No. Because any delay in that impacts kids, a very vulnerable population…. Even if I really believed in [the Democrats’] cause, I would still have to say it was not worth it, because there’s a real need here.”

Abbott tweeted on Monday, “The Democrats’ decision to break quorum inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. I will keep calling Special Sessions until we address every emergency item — including foster care …”

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