Children’s Shelter furloughs 68 after state pauses child placement

SAN ANTONIO – The Children’s Shelter announced Wednesday that it plans to furlough 68 employees at its emergency shelter after the state put an indefinite hold on placing children at that facility.

The furloughs will begin on May 5, according to a news release, and the shelter expects to extend them for “approximately 60 days, hoping to get resolution on the placement hold during that time.”

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters ordered a “placement hold” on the Children’s Shelter’s emergency shelter, known as the Cottage, on April 22. That means it can’t host any kids until the state decides otherwise. All of the children who were already at the emergency shelter had to be relocated by April 26.

In her April 22 letter, Masters said the division of the Children’s Shelter that has a state contract for managing the local foster care system, Family Tapestry, had chosen not to accept six children into its care and had not found placements for three others who remained at DFPS offices. There were additional problems, she wrote, and “the situation is unacceptable and threatens the safety of the children.”

To avoid losing its contract, the Children’s Shelter has to make improvements in the state agency’s eyes. Masters required the organization to submit a detailed plan “on how Family Tapestry intends to have adequate, licensed, and most importantly safe, placements for children in its care.” The plan, she wrote, must show how the efforts would bring tangible results in 30 days.

The plan Children’s Shelter president and CEO Annette Rodriguez submitted on April 26 was accompanied by a letter with strongly worded defense of the organization’s performance.

“We vehemently disagree with the suggestion that the struggle to place certain high needs youth in licensed placements is a failure by Family Tapestry to perform under the Community Based Care, Single Source Continuum Contractor contract (the ‘SSCC Contract’),” Rodriguez wrote, before touching upon the difficulties involved in finding long-term spots for kids in the foster care system, especially for older kids with “complex emotional and behavioral challenges and needs.”

As part of its action plan, the Children’s Shelter included various plans to grow capacity for providing short-term spots and longer-term placements. Those included are accepting older children into their emergency shelter, provided they are part of a sibling group and partnering with a faith-based organization for foster placements.

It also includes strategies for improving its management and safety, like hiring the former head of Child Protective Services, Kristene Blackstone, to help Family Tapestry’s day-to-day operations, and bringing in a third-party advisor to reevaluate its emergency shelter’s procedures and find gaps in safety practices.

Ultimately, Masters will need to sign off on the action plan. And while the Family Tapestry contract is at stake, a DFPS spokesman indicated the agency will likely work with the Children’s Shelter to ensure its plan’s acceptable and that it follows through.

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