BY RALPH D. HEATH AND C.W. “DUB” STOCKER III
Special to the Star-Telegram
The Texas foster care system is in crisis. Texans of all political persuasions are clamoring for reform.
It’s time for action. As legislators grapple with the one thing they are constitutionally required to do, write a balanced state budget, our state’s leaders and all Texans must show how much they care for our most vulnerable and abused children.
Texas has the funds to improve foster care.
While stories of foster children becoming victims of human trafficking fill the news, the Legislature debates additional tax cuts.
For children in our foster care system, it’s not just a rainy day — it’s pouring.
Texas has the resources and expertise to improve foster care.
Home-grown models, proven to work, can reform and improve the entire foster care system.
Local nonprofits, like ACH Child and Family Services here in North Texas, have shown that quality providers of foster care services get positive results.
ACH focuses on developing local capacity to keep children safely in their home communities instead of sending them to distant parts of the state where maintaining contact with friends, family and support networks is difficult.
In order to ensure that the state maintains meaningful oversight and holds community contractors accountable for better outcomes for kids, Texas must invest significant new resources.
Our state’s leaders have urged the private sector and faith-based communities to help address the foster care crisis.
Private partners like ACH have responded and want to contribute to the roll-out of community-based foster care.
Foundations and philanthropists that have long supported Child Protective Services are eager to assist and will be effective partners in reform.
The private sector stands ready to help reform foster care, but there is only so much it can do. Its resources must be kept in perspective.
Churches, nonprofits, foundations and individual philanthropists have limited budgets and bandwidth. Legislators cannot count on prolonged and indefinite support.
The Legislature must step up and increase state appropriations and funding for proven models of delivering foster care.
Our state’s elected leaders must put words into action and not only reform the foster care system but also devote adequate attention and money to do the job right.
Strong state oversight of the spending can hold community-based foster care partners accountable for improving outcomes for the children in their care.
At this very moment, the state’s top budget writers, Senate Finance Chairman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond, are deciding how much additional money to invest in foster care, specifically in a community-based approach.
A federal judge has ruled that the Texas foster care system is in such poor shape that it violates the constitutional rights of some children in its care.
If Texas under-funds foster care, the state will be back in court, and the Legislature will be forced to re-visit the issue of foster care reform and improvement.
Texans know that the foster care system is broken and that the current system often serves as a pipeline into human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
Unless we act decisively, these horrors will continue unabated.
Texas has the money to appropriately fund community-based foster care.
The question is: Do we have the compassion, decency and political resolve?
Ralph D. Heath, retired executive vice president of Lockheed Martin, is a board member of the North Texas Community Foundation. C.W. “Dub” Stocker III is founder of Lonestar Resources Inc. and board chairman of ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth.
This article was originally printed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in March 2017.