is critically important that we support families and prevent abuse and neglect before it
occurs. This requires intense intervention – especially now, with many families
under stress and isolated. To elevate and strengthen DFPS’ focus on family
preservation, the Prevention and Early Intervention division (PEI) is being
tasked with building a more extensive network of services and
supports. This bright spotlight on the value of family preservation builds
upon the innovation and success of PEI’s community-based prevention programs to
maximize the potential of families and promote resilient communities in Texas.
passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) followed this
approach and signaled the federal government’s clear intent to increase
opportunities for States to prevent children from entering the foster care
system. This monumental shift in the child welfare landscape provides
excellent opportunities for States.
Legislature required DFPS to produce a strategic plan by Sept. 1, 2020 that is
informative and provided options as well as recommendations for Texas’
implementation of the legislation. The FFPSA is an extremely important law, and
clear and concise information about its benefits and the risks must be fully
developed and understood.
thrive in safe, stable, nurturing families and communities, and I will work to
ensure that DFPS does everything possible to preserve the parent-child bond by
keeping families together.
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child abuse investigation is uniquely traumatic for any family, and we must
clearly explain what is involved and what is at stake. As each investigation
begins, it is my clear and absolute expectation that our caseworker and
managers make extensive efforts to engage parents and caregivers in the
process. We must pursue every opportunity to help families stay intact.
if our investigation finds abuse or neglect that necessitates strong action, we
must – and we will – continue to act swiftly and get that child out of harm’s
way. I believe DFPS should seek a court order to remove children from their
families only when absolutely necessary.
will work to strengthen family engagement efforts to ensure that children are
safe, and we want to be as least intrusive as possible. That is worth
repeating: my goal is for our agency to match our efforts to each situation as
precisely as possible.
will work closely with families to effectively assess the level of
safety and risk to the children in the home. And when children must enter the
legal conservatorship of the state, DFPS will focus intense efforts on those
cases in which children can safely be reunited with their families. In those
cases, we will pursue reunification as quickly as possible – and, just as
importantly, follow through in those efforts.
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remains firmly dedicated to working with Texas providers and communities to
help ensure that Community-Based Care (CBC) will succeed as it expands across
the state. The singular goal of CBC is improved outcomes for Texas families and
children, and we are committed to statewide implementation.
will continue to revisit the components of the CBC model to reinforce its
continued viability and, as needed, make recommendations to State leadership.
Continuous quality improvement will remain in place throughout implementation
of CBC, and we will maintain strong oversight of critical performance areas.
is imperative that the partnership we forge and maintain with providers exists
not only in the CBC realm but in our traditional legacy system as well.
Providers are on the front lines of child welfare, serving children and
families alongside our agency and other community partners. We must support
providers as we strive together to improve our work.
and most importantly, the safety of children in care will remain a top
priority. And we want each of them, from the youngest child to oldest youth, to
receive exactly the treatment and services they need while they are in the
conservatorship of the state.
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children must be removed from their homes, DFPS works hard to find appropriate
family members to care for them and try to limit the inevitable trauma children
may experience when away from their parents. DFPS has success in this area
and is often able to place siblings together when children are placed with their
fiscal year 2019, more than 40 percent of children in substitute care were
placed with kin, and more than half of the children adopted were by a family
member. The Legislature has consistently supported the agency’s efforts to
place children with kin and has authorized DFPS to provide a daily stipend to
kin caregivers to promote stable placements. Continual improvement is always
our goal, and DFPS will continue to make these familial placements a top
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fiscal year 2019, nearly 7,000 youth ages 14 to 17 remained in the legal
conservatorship of the state. DFPS is firmly committed to make every
effort to help children, no matter the age, find a safe and appropriate
permanent home. Children must have family connections to be successful,
and DFPS will continue to help children find permanent homes with their own
relatives whenever possible.
youth often tell DFPS caseworkers that they feel ill-prepared for the decisions
that will face them once they are independent. We hear them and will improve
the quality of services to better support youth as they grow toward adulthood.
foster parents and residential providers are responsible for ensuring that
older youth in their care begin receiving independent living skills, youth
often express that they don’t feel the information is presented to them
effectively in a classroom setting. DFPS will work with the provider community
to encourage foster parents to include foster youth in family decisions and model
real-life scenarios so youth can experience meaningful activities and difficult
life decisions – while still having the safety net of a caregiver.
those young people who transition out of traditional foster care seeking
independence, stable housing is perhaps the biggest challenge. DFPS has
expanded its Supervised Independent Living Program (SIL) and partnered with the
Texas A&M System and several other universities to expand opportunities for
former foster youth who choose to take advantage of their Tuition Fee
Waiver. But there is still much to do. The agency will work to expand SIL
opportunities at community and technical colleges for those youth who are not
yet ready to earn a four-year degree. We will also improve relationships
with traditional colleges to ensure that youth experience no administrative
barriers to receiving a higher education.
because the former foster youth/housing issue is so daunting, we’ve recently
partnered with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for
the first time to attack this problem with federal dollars.
Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program provides young people with a child
welfare history – who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of
homelessness – with safe, affordable housing and support. So far, HUD has
awarded FYI housing vouchers or family unification funds to public housing
authorities serving Fort Worth, Harris County, El Paso, San Marcos, and
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the population of Texas grows, Texas inevitably gains more residents over age
65 and residents who live with a disability. Texas keeps a close watch on the
aging Baby Boomer population, and estimates that in the next 10 years, the
population over age 65 will grow by 43 percent. It’s crucial that Adult
Protective Services (APS) continues its focus on increasing the quality of
investigations and services provided to the Texans it serves.
to pay raises given by the Texas Legislature, and a mentorship program for new
caseworkers, more employees are staying. APS is seeking to improve and
supplement caseworker skills to conduct more thorough investigations and
increase positive outcomes for its clients.
APS is committed to using the least restrictive interventions, including
supportive family members, that protect clients and still support the
individual’s right to self-determination.
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continuing efforts to serve fellow Texans will be limited without a stable,
passionate, and unified workforce. With more than 12,000 employees, DFPS is
constantly evolving its efforts to recruit, train, and keep qualified and
dedicated staff. This has become even more important because of the devastating
impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our staff are working nonstop to continue
serving vulnerable Texans. We have learned through this crisis and have become
better at our mission, in part with innovation and ingenuity. We’ve used more
technology and reduced our physical footprint.
is dependent on specialized staff who ensure the agency’s continuity of
services, and the agency is exploring new ways to reach highly qualified
candidates to continually breathe new life into the agency. DFPS has also
revamped its supervisor hiring process so that candidates must show not only
command of the subject matter, but that they are qualified to manage
cannot keep employees unless we have excellent supervisors. Peer mentors are an
important puzzle piece, supervisors help us to retain staff through the culture
they create in their individual units.
I arrived at DFPS, my first item of business was to hear directly from my
caseworkers – those who directly serve our vulnerable Texans. Caseworkers
experience extreme stress in their jobs and were leaving the agency because
they didn’t feel supported in their roles. We will do more for caseworkers and
supervisors to give them the best foundation we can to perform their jobs. DFPS
will explore expanding mentorship opportunities to other divisions of the
agency. The agency will continue to focus on ensuring that we hire the
right people for the right jobs.
entire chain of command has the responsibility to create an environment that
hires the right people, equips them for the job, supports their development and
helps them understand how they contribute to our success by protecting
children, vulnerable adults, and advocating for families.
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and community engagement work are critical to our success. DFPS is just
one agency, and we need the faith and secular communities to stand with us. We
must be where the vulnerable children are, not wait for them to come into the
child welfare system. There are families in every Texas community who feel
isolated and unseen. Until we are all willing to see them and take ownership,
we cannot effectively show up in their lives and reduce the number of children
entering our care.
the agency’s efforts to grow our partnerships around the state have been
stellar, the work and coordination must be increased. DFPS will work together
across all programs to ensure that we are maximizing our resources and
leveraging valuable relationships to meet the needs of vulnerable
Texans. Our consolidated team will deploy throughout the state to continue
their mission of engaging faith leaders and organizations to help support
families working to not enter the system and remain
whole. We want to support family engagement and reunification, recruit quality
foster and adoptive homes, encourage the adoption of older youth in foster
care, and inform the public about the availability of services.
some children and older youth who interact with DFPS have never had a
meaningful, healthy relationship with an adult, the value of a positive adult
role model and mentor cannot be overstated. DFPS has worked to connect
volunteers who are interested in becoming a mentor with community partners in
their area. These partnerships allow children to experience, perhaps for the
first time, a relationship with a healthy and safe adult. These relationships
can be long-lasting and follow the child through adulthood. DFPS will continue
to increase our efforts to recruit volunteers and partner with organizations
that can help them fulfill their desire to serve.
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has made the fight against human trafficking a priority – it must be
eradicated. Foster youth who age out of state care face many challenges and can
be at a higher risk of human trafficking because of homelessness.
our very limited jurisdiction, the agency is an enthusiastic partner in the
statewide anti-trafficking effort. DFPS has well-functioning ties to law
enforcement, local city and county governments, state agencies, advocacy
agencies, and faith organizations to leverage resources and coordinate
efforts. DFPS will continue this work around the clock to identify,
report, recover, and support victims of trafficking in their restoration
can only investigate cases of trafficking by family members, and firmly
believes that protective parents should have the right to advocate for their
children who have been victimized.
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have extremely high expectations of my staff and am confident we will make
great strides in improving outcomes and services for the people we serve. But I
must acknowledge and recognize the importance of the foster care litigation. It
is imperative that we comply with the Court’s orders while we continue to
strengthen and improve the agency’s operations. Accordingly, to oversee this
important work, I have created a division that will focus on coordinating the
agency’s ongoing compliance efforts. The Compliance, Coordination and Strategy
division works closely with the DFPS General Counsel and our Associate
Commissioners to oversee the day-to-day efforts and interaction with the
need to sharpen our focus and bear down on this case. We want to be successful
in making the changes necessary for the Court to bring this lawsuit to a close.
This division will centralize and oversee our efforts to do just that.