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CPS: Children placed in offices due to lack of available beds
6/26/2007 6:02 PM
By: Amy Hadley
This couch sometimes becomes a bed for foster children with no place to sleep.
Kids spending the night in conference rooms — that’s been a solution Child Protective Services has used to house foster children it is unable to place.
Air mattresses, pillows and blankets are tucked away in cabinets and closets, ready to turn rooms at CPS office buildings into makeshift bedrooms.
Since January, foster children have been sleeping at CPS offices as a short-term solution to finding foster placements. And the numbers have been on the rise every month, from 32 in January to 160 in May. The total since January is 479.
This problem is a symptom of a shift of CPS resources to child abuse investigations, at the expense of finding placements for foster children.
“The system as it exists now is maxed,” Patrick Crimmins, with CPS, said.
Crimmins said the problem is tri-fold. First, there are 40 percent more children in foster care this year than last, but only 26 percent more foster homes and facilities.
“The number of kids in foster care is increasing faster than the
number of placements we have for them. So it’s a supply and demand problem,” he said.
Crimmins also said some providers are refusing to take certain children. He said the ones housed at CPS offices are those who are harder to place.
“Mental illness, some of them are violent, they can be aggressive. Some of them are runaways. So these are very, very difficult children to place,” he said.
And the third problem, he said, is there are facilities that don’t meet CPS’s minimum standards, so those are not an option.
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Texas CPS will have to find real places to sleep for all the children in foster care after July 1.
Regardless of the reasons, the 10 Travis County civil district judges signed an order last Thursday saying children cannot be housed in state offices. The exception is in emergencies.
“It appears to me, this is a lack of planning,” 126th District Judge Darlene Byrne said. “I know it’s not easy. So is it lazy? I wouldn’t say it’s lazy. It certainly isn’t creative. It is not finding the appropriate long-term solution for the issue before us.”
As of July 1, CPS cannot house Travis County children in offices.
“I can’t help but believe there is someone in the system who is really good at math, really good at budgets, and can draft really good contracts and figure out how to develop a long term plan to adequately provide housing for our kids,” Byrne said.
“We do need more facilities. We need more residential treatment facilities and we need more emergency shelters,” Crimmins said. “Every single day there’s kind of an emergency meeting that’s held here in Austin to go over each one of the cases of the children who’ve been in the offices the night before. And we discuss what we can do to get this child out of an office and into a regular placement.”
Caseworkers are paid overtime to stay overnight with the children, two for every child. Judges say given the types of children having to stay in offices, caseworkers are not adequately trained to care for them.
“The children they provide a safe home for are sometimes children that have lived through some of our worst nightmares and these children do need a lot of special care and support,” Byrne said.