The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will begin contracting out foster care services in our region this fall. The “community-based care” contractor EMPOWER will service nine counties including Collin County.
The move to contracted care comes after years of pushback to Child Protective Services’ abuse allegations and concerns of low-pay and overworked caseworkers. Lawmakers have also highlighted children sleeping in CPS offices, siblings separated and data showing that many children are placed in counties outside of their home counties.
Community-based, privatized foster care uses local resources to enable foster families to focus on the concerns most relevant to that community. However, some have critiqued that community-based care’s reliance on privatization could create as many problems as it solves.
“As Texas is the second largest state in the nation and is teeming with cultural diversity, the foster care system should draw on resources that are uniquely appropriate for the population it serves,” J.D. candidate Sara Kilmer said in The Texas Foster Care System: 7 Years After M.D. v. Abbott. “Drawing on regional resources is an innovative and efficient way to do that. However, hiring a private entity to do so is not necessary.”
Community-based care has already been rolled out in the Panhandle, Big Country/Texoma, Metroplex West and South Central/Hill Country regions. Contracts for other areas in Texas are expected to be rolled out soon.
Instead of DFPS handling a case from start to finish, a lead contractor will assemble the provider team to take over case management. Then, a year after kids start flowing into the new network, CPS conservatorship caseworkers will hand off oversight of the kids to private social workers that are hired by the lead contractor.
The EMPOWER child welfare collaborative is now contracted to run all fostering operations in the Dallas, Grayson, Fannin, Collin, Hunt, Rockwall, Kaufman, Ellis and Navarro counties. The subsidiary of The Family Initiative will start receiving children who are removed by Child Protective Services in the fall.
EMPOWER will be in charge of selecting and assigning children to its assembled team of providers who recruit and train foster parents or operate congregate-care institutions, which includes responsibilities concerning children in conservatorship and their families, young adults in extended care or return to care, kinship caregivers, children placed in the area through Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, local permanency and courtesy services, visits with the child, family and caregivers and court-related duties regarding the child.
Collin County is known for being a “white-picket fence community,” leading many to believe that Collin County doesn’t have a need for greater child protective services. However, thousands of children are reported to Texas CPS as alleged victims of abuse or neglect in Collin County every year.
In fact, according to the DFPS database, 314 children were placed in foster care last year in Collin County alone.
Collin County has several non-profits aimed toward helping these kids already. Collin House provides a temporary place to to live while children wait for foster placement, and CK Family Services, which is supporting the EMPOWER effort, has been placing foster children with families for years in the Plano and Arlington areas and beyond.
While an exact date for the transition has not been released, EMPOWER will soon begin the hiring process and has details surrounding benefits posted on their site.