Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spike in Foster Care Placements: the Economy or Re-balancing?

An interesting piece in the Texas Tribune noting a sudden increase in foster care placements for the month of September. In that month 1500 children were removed from their homes, as compared to the highest single month of removal previously that included the 400 children removed from a polygamists' ranch. The article goes on to suggest that this may be a reflection of an appropriate refocusing of the system from a period when too many children were left in their homes.

Certainly when recent headlines announce that "Texas leads the state in child abuse deaths", it is easy to see how this sudden "course correction" might occur. Another potential factor identified in the article is the Gates case, where the 5th Circuit clarified when social workers can remove children without a court order and when they are immune from prosecution. Many believe that following the Gates case, the Texas child welfare agency took a very strict view of when a child is considered to be in danger. However, the article also suggests that the economy could be a factor in the increase of child abuse cases. With the recession causing more families to experience hunger, homelessness, unemployment and family stress, there may also be an increase in child neglect or family violence. At the same time, many agencies are forced to lay off social workers.

What do you think? Is the Texas system re-balancing? Or is the economy resulting in more vulnerability for families and children? Or are agencies with fewer social workers less equipped to help families and children in crisis?


  1. The answer is none of the above. Rather, the Texas system had been unbalanced in favor of removal for nearly a decade. It finally was coming into balance, and now it's gone wrong again. Here's part of the comment I posted on the Tribune website:

    Remind me never to send another tip to the Texas Tribune. Ms. Ramshaw [Emily Ramshaw, who wrote the story] first found out about this spike in removals from me. I learned of it from Johana Scot of the outstanding Texas advocacy organization, the Parent Guidance Center,

    I told Ms. Ramshaw about the spike in removals because it's a sign of Texas retreating from reform and doing harm to children. In fact, thanks largely to Scott McCown,[of the Center for Public Policy Priorities] and his unceasing efforts to pressure the system into taking away more children, entries into foster care in Texas have been soaring since 1998. The correction was in 2007, when they finally started going down again. Now the system is UN-correcting.

    These data are readily available on NCCPR's website here:
    Also on our website, our comprehensive report on Texas child welfare, including an appendix featuring an e-mail dialogue between Mr. McCown and myself that readers may find interesting:

    I certainly didn't expect the Tribune to simply take my word for this or accept only my interpretation of the data. But I didn't expect the Tribune to totally leave that point of view out of the story either, and rely on McCown, who *always* says Texas isn't taking away enough children, and led the cheerleading for CPS in the FLDS case. Nor was there any comment from Ms. Scot. ...

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

  2. Option #4: Is the system UNcorrecting?

    Great links, Richard, thank you! We know well that it is important to look at the story behind the data, and the more information you have the better you will understand what the data might be saying.