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SENATE APPROVES MEASURES TO SUPPORT FOSTER CHILDREN, FAMILIES
AUSTIN — The Texas Senate today unanimously approved SB 69 by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and to provide better support for individuals aging out of the foster system. The measure now moves to the House for further consideration.
"These improvements are seriously needed to help our foster children as they transition into their adult lives. Sadly, many of them are falling into lives of despair and, in many cases, homelessness. We need to better support these children and the families who provide their care," she said, noting that more than a fourth of the homeless population are products of foster care. SB 69, as amended on the Senate floor:
- Enhances Preparation for Adult Living classes to ensure that foster children aging out of the system have access to community resources (e.g., food stamps, low income housing, job opportunities, local charitable services) that can aid in their transition to adulthood;
- Establishes a mentoring program at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in which foster families serve as advisers to biological families in preparation for the return of a child to the biological parents;
- Requires 5 days notification for non-emergency placement transfers of children to give them more time to prepare for the move and minimize stress;
- Requires exit surveys with foster parents who decide to leave the system;
- Requires DFPS to consider co-locating offices with child placing agencies;
- Establishes a foster child bill of rights;
- Adds funding to bring state closer to ensuring that caseworker visits to foster children occur monthly at least 95% of the time (up to $12 million, to be decided by the conference committee on the state budget); and
- Directs DFPS to study the feasibility of a financial incentive program for foster youth who achieve goals under treatment and service plans.
Under the state budget approved by the Texas Senate yesterday, appropriations for DFPS increases by $40 million to hire 84 new caseworkers and improve caseworker salaries. In addition, the Senate improved reimbursement rates for foster care providers by 6 to 9 percent, depending on type of care.
Additionally, the Senate Health & Human Services last week approved SB 493 by Senator Nelson, improving services for children in the CPS system and expanding tuition benefits; and SB 1332 by Senator Nelson, requiring courts to consider previous placements for children re-entering the system.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.