BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – A statewide nonprofit dedicated to helping children and youth-serving organizations believes a start to improving the foster care system is understanding the challenges that cause community-based care programs to close down.
Katie Olse, CEO of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, is weighing in on Family Tapestry’s recent announcement that it is terminating its contract with the state for community-based care.
Family Tapestry is a division of the Children’s Shelter in charge of finding placement for children in Bexar County.
“Learning from what happened here and understanding the pressure points that may have caused this to happen and making sure we fix it moving forward and enrolling those lessons learned into implementations around the state,” said Olse, suggesting ways to improve the system. “It doesn’t have to derail community-based care, but we do have to learn from it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Olse said organizations like these are under a lot of pressure, and the pandemic has only made it worse.
“It has impacted the workforce and the ability to recruit foster parents and go into homes,” she said. “We have all had to quarantine.”
Olse also said lack of funding had presented challenges for certain organizations, something the CEO of the Children’s Shelter also noted in a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in April.
According to the letter, the organization asked DFPS to account for the increased costs of supporting the needs of children in placement in light of the unanticipated and ongoing capacity crisis.
Some organizations that carry out community-based care have expressed concerns with the state’s strict oversight.
“The good news is that, even though all of the oversight right now may seem like a lot and confusing, they are the same goal, which is the safety of children, and that is something we are all aligned with,” Olse said.
She added that the state legislature is looking at ways to improve the child welfare system.
“(Lawmakers) are going to provide guidance on the kind of quality and safety and care we want to see in the state,” Olse said. “Some flexibility where it is needed because when we are working with kids, we need some flexibility. (They want to make) clear what the expectations are -- also directing some innovation and some pilots and family preservation models and prevention programs.”
In a letter dated May 10 sent to the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the chair of the House Human Services Committee, Commissioner Jaime Masters, with DFPS, acknowledged the challenges providers are facing. The letter contains the following:
“Most providers do not exist to run a profit, and as such, do not have discretionary funds to supplement rates. Higher rates would allow some providers to increase staffing or wrap-around supports. Others may be able to operate by serving fewer high-acuity children with greater focus.”
For now, Olse said communities are continuing to work together to do what they can at the moment.
“My understanding is that will revert back to what we call the legacy system,” Olse said. “Those children will still receive services. Those agencies working and partnering as a part of community-based care will continue to serve them. Most of what I imagine happening, when it goes back to the legacy system, will be administrative.”