By Ryan Poppe, Texas Public Radio
In the past two years, 171 Texas children have died from abuse and neglect while in the state’s care. And tempers flared Wednesday as state lawmakers discussed how to fix Texas’ broken child care system.
The tone of the Senate Finance Committee review of Child Protective Services started tense and stayed that way for most of Wednesday’s hearing at the state capitol.
At issue, an agency that houses children in office space for months while awaiting placement in a foster home, more than 500 cases of reported abuse occurring within foster homes going unchecked, and a high turnover of CPS caseworkers.
All these reported incidents occurring while the committee’s chairman, Flower Mound Republican Senator Jane Nelson says CPS’ budget was increased by more than 20 percent during the previous four legislative sessions.
“You have the resources, I can tell you, I can find the resources in your budget by establishing the priorities.”
Nelson addressed the new head of CPS, Commissioner Hank Whitman who asked senate lawmakers to increase his agency’s budget by $2 billion during the 2017 legislative session.
Some lawmakers like San Antonio State Senator Carlos Uresti asked Whitman not to wait to begin hiring the additional 500 caseworkers he’s deemed a necessity and start finding placement for these children.
“This isn’t something that can wait until January, this is something that needs to fixed now," Uresti says. Whitman replies, "Senator, let me say this, I lose a lot of sleep over this, it sickens me.”
Uresti and other members of the Senate Finance committee demanded that Whitman come up with a plan for how his agency plans to locate and investigate 511 pending high-risk cases involving children that have made multiple reports of physical and sexual abuse and remain in the same foster home.