Texas AG Ken Paxton: Federal judge’s plan to repair broken foster care system is ‘judicial takeover’
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) accused a federal judge of trying to implement a “judicial takeover” with her ruling highlighting extreme deficiencies in the state’s foster care system, the Dallas Morning News reported.
“It is true that Texas’ foster-care system needs improvement in certain areas,” Paxton’s office said in a motion filed on Friday. “But the same could be said of most states’ foster-care systems and plaintiffs did not come close to proving that defendants’ policies and procedures shock the conscience.”
Paxton’s motion to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeks to delay a ruling handed down last month by federal District Judge Janis Jack outlining more protective measures to be instituted at some group foster homes by June 2016.
As the Morning News reported, Jack’s 260-page ruling slams the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for being “deliberately indifferent toward foster group homes,” noting that the department does not keep track of how many children are in each home, and that state officials do not track instances of child-on-child abuse, instead placing children in environments “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.”
“In sum, DFPS is aware that faulty investigations, not tracking child-on-child abuse, inadequate licensing and enforcement, and an insufficient workforce all pose a substantial risk of serious harm to [licensed foster care] children. DFPS has consciously disregarded each of these risks,” she wrote. “The Court therefore finds that DFPS is deliberately indifferent toward the LFC Subclass.”
Jack’s plan, which would cover 12,000 children in the system, calls for 24-hour supervision to be implemented at any foster home housing between seven and 12 children. The state’s Child Protective Service agency would be required to take photos of the children every year and hire more conservatorship caseworkers.
She also ordered that a statewide “Special Master” be appointed to conduct an analysis of the foster care system outline a plan for improving tracking of children under state care while also easing the workload for caseworkers. Jack also ruled that the administrator would present their plan to her at a hearing within six months of taking the position.
“The Special Master shall be mindful that Texas does not need to provide a perfect foster care system; just one that no longer violates the Constitution,” Jack wrote. “The provisions in the proposed Implementation Plan will be viewed as recommendations.”
But Paxton’s office said Jack’s ruling was based on “anecdotal evidence” and too broad in its application.