On December 17, 2015, the District Court of the Southern District of Texas declared that Texas’s foster system “is broken, and it has been that way for decades.” The Court ruled that Texas had violated foster children’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights because children have the right “to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by the State.”

The Court found systematic problems in its examination of the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS), including the failure to document child-on-child abuse, a system that heavily overburdened caseworkers, and an inadequate number of child placements. A court-appointed Special Masters made 44 distinct recommendations on how the state should improve the child welfare system.

Seeking to assuage the Court’s concerns, the 85th Texas Legislature introduced 88 bills related to the reform of the foster care system in the state of Texas. 21 of those bills passed, adding up to over 271 changes made to the language of Texas statutes, primarily to the Family Code, Government Code, and Human Resources Code.

CHILDREN AT RISK reviewed and analyzed recommendations and the corresponding interim order of the court (M.D., et al v. Abbott, et al.). C@R law fellows compared the order of the court to all legislation passed during Texas’s 85th state legislative session to identify which portions of the order were fulfilled, and where gaps remain.

As Texas is moving towards a “community-based care” foster care model, the fellows also analyzed a similar shift in three other states (Florida, Nebraska, and Kansas) and have identified five crucial challenges that Texas must be aware of as it makes its transition to community-based care.